I stood in the grocery line and wondered why the cashier was ignoring the customer…
At Mass last Sunday, our priest asked, by a show of hands, how many of us patiently wait. Guess how many hands went up? Not a one! I was really close to putting my arm halfway up and yelling out, “I wait patiently sometimes! Does that count??”
We know that Advent is a time of waiting. We wait for Jesus – both for the anniversary of His first coming at Christmas as well as for His second coming. We wait whilst preparing ourselves through every intermediary encounter with Him along the way…through His Word, the Mass, our prayers, etc.
We are not waiting alone. God waits with us. Lately, I sense God inviting me to greater awareness of His waiting – waiting on me as well as with me. He waits on me to wait on Him. Patiently enabling my patience.
I mean, we’re not talking about waiting for the rain to stop or the sun to rise. Even as I wait, whether patiently or impatiently, I am certain these things will happen at some point. And I have experienced the world before, during, and after. I wait with a sense of confidence and knowing.
Waiting on God feels different though, doesn’t it? How do I know when I’m done waiting!? What’s my clue that I’ve now received what I was waiting for in the first place? The whole thing seems a bit ambiguous!
The Posture of Waiting
I think waiting on God is actually more of attitude. It’s a certain posture we assume that conveys we’re no longer waiting for God to change the circumstances of our lives, but we’re learning to find God’s love and goodness through those very circumstances. As so beautifully said by Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, “We become lost in the land of nowhere to go but God, not to change the circumstances of our lives, but to change our whole attitude towards what life is really about.”
The posture of this “open-ended” waiting on God is assured, relaxed, up-looking, and free. In contrast, my posture of waiting for God to change my circumstances feels more closed, tight, small, holding on, maybe even rigid.
Things Will Happen
“To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life…The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction.” – Henri Nouwen
As I read this quote by Henri Nouwen, the scripture passage from Psalm 37:4 rang loudly in my head:
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4
In first reading this verse, I interpreted it to mean that God was going to give me the joys, the beautiful moments, the people, etc. that I really wanted in my life. About 2 years ago, I heard a different interpretation that totally blew my mind. God will teach my heart to desire what He wants me to desire. He will place desire in my heart for the things that He wants me to seek after!
Like the excited feeling I have as I sit in Mass (didn’t I used to feel, well, bored?).
Like the sense of total relief and homecoming as I enter the adoration chapel (didn’t I used to enter with a sense of obligation?).
Like the sense of freedom and ease that floods my heart at scattered moments throughout the day (what happened to the pressure I used to feel about “accomplishing”?).
The next line of Psalm 37 reads,
“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” Psalm 37:5
What if we asked God to only give us what He wants to give us? Can we trust Him enough to accept that it will be the genuine delight of our hearts? I may think, for example, that I want my children to listen better or to pray more (certainly not bad things to desire). But what if my prayer was, Jesus, I surrender my children to You, take care of everything. What if I detached from the belief that they should do these things in this way and pray for this long and answer my requests within this many seconds? What if I left it totally in God’s hands, trusting that He will act and my heart’s desire will be fulfilled? As Nouwen said, that’s an enormously radical attitude towards life!
An attitude, a posture of surrender. And trust. Trusting that new things – good things far beyond my capacity to even think of – will happen.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9
And so I wait, with expectant hope for Him to act, for me, in me, and through me. Quietly, slowly, steadily. As sure as the sun will rise.
De Yarrison Copyright 2018