It can be difficult. Waiting for a minute, for the other shoe to drop, for a phone call, for the light to change, for morning to come, for a day. For the train to pass, test results, lab results, waiting for a week. For your ship to come in, for weather to change, for snow to melt, for fields to dry, for healing to come, for strength to return, waiting for a month. For it to rain, for construction to finish, for the mail to come, for fields to ripen, for a healing regime to finish, waiting for nine months. For nine months, through morning sickness, through body changes, and through emotional changes. Through nine months of hope, from not seeing but seeing changes, to seeing.
Waiting can be difficult, can feel like darkness, but it is not empty. It can feel lonely, and maybe that is the most difficult part of waiting….the sense of being alone. Believing that there is no-one who has felt like this before, that there is no-one who understands the situation, that the decisions that must be made are yours alone to make.
As we near the middle of Advent, the second week, I think of Mary and wonder what her waiting felt like, was filled with. Certainly she had an angel’s words to carry her through what could have been anxious moments. But, it was a person who helped her to wait. She turned toward her relative, Elizabeth. A person who was also receiving a gift of new life. Someone who was willing to receive the help of another as well as give shelter to another. It makes me wonder if Mary and Elizabeth might have had other things in common, such as feeling rejected. One for being pregnant without a husband, and one enduring a lifetime of being barren. Wasn’t it wonderful for both of them to be on the inside of the conversation, instead of outside? The commonality of companionship where preparation can be shared and enjoyed because you are with another, receiving the help that we need when we believe without seeing.
It is hard not to form expectations while we wait, but there are gifts in waiting even though they might be hard to find. I think that waiting can deepen our development into more mature beings. Waiting allows us to figure out why we are reacting the way we are, to continue with those reactions, or to make adjustments. It may also give us a gift of focus. Allowing us to see what is truly important to us and maybe helping us to even uncover our deepest desires so we can change course.
So what do we do while we wait? Might we not create a new Advent practice to more fully understand Mary’s experience of waiting? Could there possibly be an invitation to be intentional? Sitting at a long red light, being alert to those who wait with us? To wonder about their lives and what they are leaving or going to? To make a type of practice that we do with our children when we sit at the red light? Can we discover ways to be mindful, to breathe deeply, to exhale fully as we wait? Maybe we notice and turn toward those who we are with, or who are with us and appreciate them more fully. Could we find ways to be more alert for possible encounters with a loving mystery? Is there a way to welcome the waiting?
“I wait for the Lord,
My soul waits,
And in his word I hope;
My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning
More than those who watch for the morning.