All of us are waiting for something. Right now, someone may be anxiously waiting for an anticipated job offer, or for a long-awaited medical test result. Or perhaps, someone is joyfully waiting for a child to be born, or sadly waiting for a loved one to peacefully die.
I think of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, who is the ultimate example for how to endure deep fears, doubts, and pains, while waiting with a completely grace filled heart. She consistently put her complete trust and hope in God for leading her and her family through their trials and darkness. This hope was rooted in a promise. It sustained her and gave her tremendous courage, which allowed her and Joseph to wait patiently.
In his book, “Finding My Way Home”, Henri Nouwen talks about the secret to waiting. He says,
“If we wait in the conviction that a seed has been planted and that something has already begun it changes the way we wait. Active waiting implies being fully present to the moment with the conviction that something is happening where we are and that we want to be present to it. ”
“A waiting person is a patient person. The word “patient” implies the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us….Waiting, then is not passive. It involves nurturing the growth of something growing within.”
Like Mary, we can sometimes get frightened when our waiting becomes hard to bear. Yet, our faith helps us to realize that we need not wait in this darkness all alone. We have the everlasting bright light of Christ to guide us and keep us focused on His promises. We have the gift of community with our close friends and family, who sustain us with their friendship and love.
I waited for more than 20 years for my mother to fully love herself and choose sobriety, until her body inevitably began to give out on her about 10 years ago, when she was in her mid-late 50’s. It began with multiple broken bones (the dog was always to blame from her “tripping” over him). Then it was Gull Bladder surgery, Colitis, Pancreatitis, Osteoporosis, bleeding on the brain (twice), Hydrocephalus (with brain surgery to have a shunt placed), Dementia, 2 broken hips, and now Kidney failure.
For most of that time, I struggled with waiting with hope. I desperately tried to trust that God was leading our family towards healing. The problem was, I held on to tightly to what my vision was of what that healing should look like. I held on to the false notion that I could control certain situations that were very much beyond my control.
It is only within the last 6 or so years, that I have begun to more deeply understand what this surrender of trust truly looks like. I have slowly come to see that God never takes us where He cannot lead us through, and that there are very large lessons and spiritual gifts to be gained within our painful journeys.
I have learned what true forgiveness requires, and how to practice compassion despite my deep fears, anger, and anxieties. I have learned how to have obedience seeped in love. A love for my mother, who was and is a close friend, and who gave me life. I have learned that I will never stop learning, and that is a beautiful thing.
This Advent, I focus on the hope that my trust in God’s promises will allow Him to dwell in my heart, not just on Christmas, but everyday. I have hope as I wait, knowing that where God is leading me, is filled with goodness and gifts that are better than I could ever possibly dream of.
“To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life. It is choosing to hope that something is happening for us that is far beyond our own imaginings. It is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life. It is living with the conviction that God molds us in love, holds us in tenderness, and moves us away from the sources of our fear.” ~ Henri Nouwen