Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Waiting: The angst of growth we cannot see

Advent is the season of waiting.  It’s pregnant with expectation and hope.  Eugene Peterson puts it this way:

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

One winter night, the phone rang waking me from a distant dream.  My nephew was about to make his entrance into the world.  I pulled on some clothes and drove through the night to the hospital.  The morning was filled with bad coffee, fast food, and walking the halls with excitement.  It was like I had just boarded a plane:  I hadn’t showered, my sleep had been interrupted, and my heart ached for the moment when a loved one would be in my arms.

As the Today Show wrapped up, Calvin emerged.  Watching a human being enter the world was the most amazing thing I have ever seen.  It is unbelievable how the body changes, making space for new life.  (Watch this video of a crab shedding its old skin.  It’s remarkable!) I witnessed a miracle that day; Calvin is so beautiful!

Expectation and arrival can be a gift, but it can also be painful.  Desire can propel us, filling us with excitement and hope.  But unmet, the fire of desire can nearly ruin us. 

The bible seems to be full of this story: People who see the promises of God, but are asked to wait for long periods of time before becoming recipients.  Sarah knew God was going to give her a baby, but she was 90 before that promise came to pass.  Along the way came a baby named Ishmael fathered by her husband and her concubine and a whole lot of family drama.

Joseph found himself in a similar fix.  Early on he had visions of leadership, but the road to Egypt was long and winding.  He became a slave and then a prisoner before he was ever brought to Pharaoh. 

Waiting is hard because it delays the thing we so desperately desire.  When what we want gets put on hold, we are poignantly reminded who really is in control.  This reality can propel us to finally confess our deepest desires not just to our friends but also before a loving God.  We feel the angst of growth we cannot see.  We hold on to the hope that Henri Nouwen was right, “Waiting is a period of learning.  The longer we wait, the more we hear about Him for whom we are waiting.”

Enjoy this piece I wrote called Sensing Hope
I think of communion; God declaring that He is the Bread of Life, extending an invitation to come and eat because He offers everything we need.  But sometimes….
It tastes like losing your appetite because your stomach is full of ache.
Eating too much, too often, to try and fill a void.

It’s the feeling of being held and needing to be held when no one is around to embrace your skin.  It’s the feel of tears falling down your cheeks and dropping into your lips.
Holding your breath.
Holding on.
Feeling weighty.  Needing to grasp something heavy to grapple with the heaviness of life. 

It looks like Dr. Seuss’ The Waiting Place.
Praising God in church with reckless abandon.  People confess to staring.  You do it anyway.
Checking your e-mail to find no response.  No messages on your phone…again.
Coming home to an empty house.
Empty handedness.

Hope smells like rain.  A remnant of a storm to be sure, but also the promise that new ground is being watered to bring fourth life.  Spring will come again with the unexpected delight of new and beautiful things growing out of the dirt.

The song: Strangely Dim, by  Francesca Battistelli

Photo by  C. Hill
Waiting Place Source