I am deep into a season of waiting. Advent waiting, yes.
But I will be honest—waiting for my phone to ring and my inbox to fill up with assignments that will put flesh on the bare bones of my new year’s calendar.
I could feel nervous. Instead, I feel unexplainably joyful.
I call this “missional” waiting. Waiting for the work that has my name on it.
You no doubt know this kind of waiting, because you too have work which has your name on it. Work which does not always reveal itself when you are feeling most ready.
Twentieth-century priest-theologian and writer Henri Nouwen notes that waiting was the attitude of the biblical remnant of Israel. In the opening of the Gospel of Luke, Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary all are waiting for fulfillment of a promise.
They “live expectantly,” Nouwen writes.
Addressing our own experience of waiting, he continues, “People who wait have received a promise that allows them to wait.” Or as I like to say, we have already received “an invitation.”
Waiting, which can seem like empty space, actually is open and active space, allowing for an attitude of holy and joyful patience.
Yet the waiting in this Advent season is shaped by forces beyond us.
I wait, we wait, for what we cannot yet see clearly, for what we cannot yet name.
We wait, curious in anticipation of what we cannot yet fathom, a great rearranging, or perhaps undoing, of systems and structures of political and social and economic life which have served as framework for a certain predictability.
The falling away, perhaps, of what is old, so that what is new and as yet unimagined may emerge.
One form of waiting, which is pregnancy, can be hard. Birthing is messy. What is new does not come into being easily. The coming about of the reign of God is hard work, even violent. Ask Jesus.
Yet in the end the risen Lord says, “See, I make all things new.”
We wait, and wonder what this means.
What is asked of me in this Advent season of waiting?
First, a certain intentionality, a commitment to stand firm in Gospel truth, and to do so in love. And to stand firm with all those whose sacred texts form them in compassion, justice, in forgiveness, and generosity.
Second, this season of waiting asks of me a certain patience. To fix my eyes not on the latest headlines but on the One who calls me to be both a merciful and prophetic presence in the world where I stand.
To actually take a stand for what is fragile, voiceless, imperiled, dismissed. To take a stand for, and also to stand with. To take a stand and not go away.
I am speaking here of waiting faithfully. Counter to my instincts, I am waiting patiently.
Nouwen writes, “Patient people dare to stay where they are,” living actively in the present and waiting there, “nurturing the moment as a mother nurtures the child that is growing in her.”
The spiritual power of waiting is in giving freedom to your future to reveal itself at the proper time. Not clutching the outcomes you can imagine, but allowing the hidden seed to mature into its proper time of revelation.
In practical terms, what is this waiting like for me?
The opening phrase of my morning prayer is this: “Your servant, Lord, your servant am I.”
The servant does not know what the Master is up to, Jesus says.
This servant does not even want to know what the Master is up to. Knowing is not the helpful thing. Rather, readiness is.
In this season of waiting I am deeply sure of one thing. Deeply sure of my anointing to stand in the place of the Master. The anointing is not in vain.
Therefore I know that my waiting is not in vain.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on the nature of God’s calling.