Advent Day 07: The Meaning Is In The Waiting …

There is within us a fundamental dis-ease, an unquenchable fire that renders us incapable, in this life, of ever coming to full peace. This desire lies at the centre of our lives, in the marrow of our bones, and in the deep recesses of the soul. We are not easeful human beings who occasionally get restless, serene persons who once in a while are obsessed by desire. The reverse is true. We are driven persons, forever obsessed, congenitally dis-eased, living lives, as Thoreau once suggested, of quiet desperation, only occasionally experiencing peace.  Desire is the straw that stirs the drink …

Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with that desire. What we do with our longings, both in terms of handling the pain and the hope they bring us, that is our spirituality. Thus when Plato says that we are on fire because our souls come from beyond and that beyond is, through the longing and hope that its fire creates in us, trying to draw us back toward itself, he is laying out the broad outlines for a spirituality.  Likewise for Augustine says: ‘You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.’ Spirituality is about what we do with our unrest.
— Ronald Rolheiser from The Holy Longing

Practising Peace In Times of War

When you’re like a keg of dynamite just about to go off, patience means just slowing down at that point—just pausing—instead of immediately acting on your usual, habitual response. You refrain from acting, you stop talking to yourself, and then you connect with the soft spot. But at the same time you are completely and totally honest with yourself about what you are feeling. You’re not suppressing anything; patience has nothing to do with suppression. In fact, it has everything to do with a gentle, honest relationship with yourself. If you wait and don’t fuel the rage with your thoughts, you can be very honest about the fact that you long for revenge; nevertheless you keep interrupting the torturous story line and stay with the underlying vulnerability. That frustration, that uneasiness and vulnerability, is nothing solid. And yet it is painful to experience. Still, just wait and be patient with your anguish and with the discomfort of it. This means relaxing with that restless, hot energy—knowing that it’s the only way to find peace for ourselves or the world.
— Pema Chodron from Practicing Peace In Times of War

Active Waiting

Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is a waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps.

Waiting for God is an active, alert—yes, joyful—waiting. As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when he comes.

How do we wait for God? We wait with patience. But patience does not mean passivity. Waiting patiently is not like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop, or the sun to rise. It is an active waiting in which we live the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the One we are waiting for.

The word patience comes from the Latin verb patior, which means “to suffer.” Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full, and letting the seeds that are sown in the ground on which we stand grow into strong plants. Waiting patiently always means paying attention to what is happening right before our eyes and seeing there the first rays of God’s glorious coming.

Waiting patiently for God includes joyful expectation. Without expectation our waiting can get bogged down in the present. When we wait in expectation our whole beings are open to be surprised by joy.

All through the Gospels Jesus tells us to keep awake and stay alert. And Paul says, “Brothers and sisters…the moment is here for you to stop sleeping and wake up, because by now our salvation is nearer than when we first began to believe. The night is nearly over, daylight is on the way; so let us throw off everything that belongs to the darkness and equip ourselves for the light” (Romans 13:11–12). It is this joyful expectation of God’s coming that offers vitality to our lives. The expectation of the fulfillment of God’s promises to us is what allows us to pay full attention to the road on which we are walking.
— Henri Nouwen from Bread For The Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith

Gestation

During Mary’s pregnancy, she ponders in her heart what is happening to her; she must guard and nurture the insights and powers she has been given. There are threats to pregnancies, from within and from without. In our eagerness for change, we can get discouraged when it doesn’t come fast enough.  Doubts and fears return. Judgement or indifference from others takes its toll.  Imagine Mary, a young mother, feeling alone, probably rebuked, ridiculed, cursed by those who could never understand her life, her call. How soon the joy of yes passes. We can feel adrift as the consequences of our decisions confront us. Gestation will demand our active attention and cooperation as we navigate new seas.

One way of cooperating with this gestation period will be to feed ourselves with the truths and personal insights we receive from God’s Word. How many times did Mary, in the face of the challenges that threatened her belief, have to remind herself of the words of the angel to her: “The Lord is with you.” How may times did she have to claim that truth in the face of derision or disregard? She needed to remind herself that in God’s plan she was no less of God’s warriors than Gideon or David. This would have renewed her courage and desire to fulfil her call.
— Mark A. Villano from Time to Get Ready: An Advent, Christmas Reader to Wake Your Soul

See Also:

Angel

(photo credit)

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