Patience in Waiting
Isaiah 64:1-4 (NIV)
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains would tremble before you!
2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze
and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
and cause the nations to quake before you!
3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
4 Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
How can we celebrate waiting in a time that idolizes the instant?
Advent is about waiting and having to wait for something or someone is an exercise in patience. We aren’t naturally patient people stubbornly we are very impatient. We celebrate the prompt and are irritated when there is a line-up to get what we need, the internet glitches or the car ahead drives under the speed limit. This year our patience has been exercised going in and out of lockdown, waiting outside of facilities and the uncertainty of when cancelled plans will be permissible again. If the passed months stretched your patience, consider yourself blessed because you had an opportunity to reframe your thinking. Waiting often unsettles and stirs enough that it draws us into a thin place where we are jolted in a good way to see things differently.
Turning back the pages of history on the story of Advent we find that waiting was very familiar to those who were part of God’s divine plan. Abraham was told he would be the Father of a nation that would be a blessing to all nations (Gen. 12). Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for their son, Isaac, the start of the bloodline to Christ’s birth 2,000 years later. Isaac’s wife Rebekah waited 20 years before Jacob was born and Jacob waited 7 years and worked 14 years to marry Rachel who also waited 14 years for Joseph’s birth. Elizabeth and Zachariah, another barren couple, waited for their son, the promised forerunner to the Messiah, prophesied some 700 years earlier (Isa 40:3-5). Waiting is part of life and although it frustrates, it is an invitation to a different time frame from our own. Divine work is done in God’s time frame and we don’t have or know his timetable. The waiting period he calls us to can be as significant as the fulfillment.
Advent gives a perspective to waiting: remembering those who waited on God’s promises and encouraging us to examine how we wait today. A Jewish rabbi was asked how his community felt about advent as they wait for their Messiah to come. His perspective: “We survive through prayer.” Waiting in prayer is also central for us as we wait for Christ’s last advent. Prayer is an active waiting by speaking, lamenting, listening and sitting with God. It develops intimacy and in that process we also begin to learn that waiting doesn’t have time constraints. We are embraced in the beauty of who God is, who we are in him and we enter into the experience of waiting as enough.
This advent, pause to ponder: How do I respond to waiting? How patient am I? What am I waiting on God for? How can I step out of my own time frame and be still in God’s time frame waiting for his work in me, in others, in the world?