Waiting is the thing we do between the things we wish we were doing. We
wait in traffic during our daily commute. We wait in supermarket lines and for an open parking space at the mall. We wait to be seated at our favorite restaurant. We wait because we have to but we don’t like it. When we don’t have to wait, we feel blessed.
We are an instant society. We (re)heat our food in two to four minutes. We have instant access to information via the internet, text friends, share photos, skype family. We have smart phones with us at all times so we can instant message and instagram selfies of us eating instant ramen. We stream video, download books and music. All our favorite retailers have one day shipping. Wherever we can we eliminate waiting from our life.
On another level we hate waiting because we wonder if we are just wasting our time. If we are stuck in traffic or in a queue, we feel we are missing ‘real life.’ Or worse, what if our waiting comes to nothing? Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play Waiting For Godot (1949) and the Christopher Guest’s brilliant mockumentary Waiting For Guffman (1997) both name in their titles characters who never showed up (oops, SPOILER ALERT). And what about all those ways we wait and watch for God to break into our life and circumstance but we just don’t see Him? Cancer. Racism. Violence. War. We cry “How Long O Lord?” and pray we aren’t waiting in vain.
Advent is a space each year where the church is invited to wait. In once sense this waiting is counter cultural. Our culture says blessed are the activists, the go-getters, the movers-and-shakers, the innovators, those-that-git-er-done. Of course we all know waiting is sometimes necessary. People who have not mastered the skill of waiting make poor financial and life choices. Delayed gratification is a sign of emotional intelligence and if you wait to eat your marshmallow you may get two. We know this, but we dislike passivity and honor those who make things happen.
And yet when we open our Bibles we are called to wait, to watch, to press eagerly in to God, anticipating what He will do. I read the Beatitudes this morning (Matthew 5:1-12) and was struck how many of those Jesus called blessed occupy liminal spaces– the stuck in the in-between places:
- “Blessed are the poor in spirit. . .” –the poor wait (the purview of the wealthy is they don’t have to).
- ” Blessed are those who mourn. . .” –those longing for comfort and joy while stuck in the land of grief
- “Blessed are the meek. . .” The passed-over, last-picked, the unobtrusive. Not the-movers-and-the-shakers; nevertheless they will inherit the earth.
- “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice. . .”- -those hungry and thirsty waiting to be filled.
- “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. . .” -those who show the mercy they long for through chronic injustice and ongoing wounds.
- “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. . .”–the ones who learned to hear God’s voice despite the cacophony of competitors.
- “Blessed are the peacemakers. . .”–those taking stands against the systemic violence and apathy of our age.
- “Blessed are those who are persecuted. . .” -those suffering for holding out faith in cultures antagonistic toward it.
Blessed are those that wait! The poor, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty, the wounded healers, the longsuffering saints, the peacemakers and the persecuted! Jesus is coming! Wait for Him! He calls you blessed and blesses you as you wait!
In what ways does waiting make you feel anxious? In what ways do you experience God’s blessing as you wait?