There can be joy in the waiting.
Advent is the season of waiting, of anticipation, of the expectation of glory. But there can be joy in the waiting, too.
We wait all the time. We wait in line at the store, we wait in traffic. I wait in the rocking chair with Ellie, waiting. waiting. waiting. until she is drowsy enough to be transferred to her crib. We wait for the weekends. We wait for 5:00.
There is no denying the joy that can be found by catching that open check-out lane or a string of green lights. I can’t deny the relief I feel when I gently lay Ellie in her crib and tiptoe out of the room without any of her typical cries of protest.
But I heard this whisper tonight: there can be joy in the waiting.
There has to be, right?
A few weekends ago at church I listened to a poem about the speaker’s fear of missing out on goodness because goodness is fleeting. (For instance: wanting to savor the last moments of fall because he knows that winter is coming.) But then the speaker recognized that his fear stemmed from his incorrectly projecting his own finite image of goodness on to a God whose goodness knows no bounds. (I am not doing this poem justice. I will try to find a link to it.)
I was in tears during that poem, because I saw myself in that idea. So much of my writing centers around the fleeting nature of time, of discovering purpose in the mundane and eternity in finitude. For me, recognizing there is an end to things allows those things to have real meaning. But what if that didn’t have to be the case? For example, I sometimes get myself through rocking Ellie to sleep because I imagine the years in the near future when she will no longer need to be rocked to sleep. But what if my heart was refashioned into a heavenly heart, a heart that didn’t need an ending in order to make the middle something of value?
I think this is what Tillich might have meant when he said, “there is not time after time, but there is eternity above time.” Eternal hearts don’t just exist forever in the future, they stand apart from time. God is the “beginning and the end,” and the same can be said for the bits of Divinity in us.
Advent reminds me I’ve got to immerse myself in the waiting.
And while we wait, we work together in love. A few days ago in church, we packed gift bags for prisoners. Each item for the gift bag was passed down each row. I want you to picture this: I received the items from an Asian couple on my right, and passed them to an elderly man on my left. The elderly man would smile so kindly at me, and I would smile back. There was a Mexican woman and her teenage daughter in front of me, and a man with special needs behind me. All doing the same thing. Working for Love’s sake. And there was a few seconds in that sacred space when I managed to forget myself for a bit. And in this forgetting, I saw the One who matters. Time stopped in awe of the beauty that surrounded me, and I thought “I could live in this peace forever.”
Every time we find joy in the waiting, our hearts expand a little bit more—they become more capable of finding meaning in the middle, and fathoming goodness that knows no bounds.