When I was in elementary school I loved Fridays. Not only was it “tater tot day” in the cafeteria, but every Friday we played dodgeball during PE. Dodgeball was one of my favorite games; running, jumping, and yes, even the occasional opportunity to throw a ball at your classmate! (You know the one!) However, one of the best aspects of dodgeball was even when you were “tagged out” and having to wait on the sidelines, if your teammate caught an opponent’s ball your teammate could choose to have you come back into the game thus giving you a “do-over.” What I have learned in life as well as in dodgeball, is that the waiting can be hell. How absurd then that Advent, a whole season in the Christian tradition, is about waiting.
Like most seminarians I was coerced into studying biblical languages; it was just one of the many gifts of seminary. Through all the blood, sweat, and tears studying these languages caused me, I learned to love and value the original meaning of each intended word. For example, the words for waiting in both Greek and Hebrew are used at times as synonyms for watching. To make things worse, both languages suggest an attitude for which these two verbs should happen—both positive. Excuse me, but I am a child of the 80s. My generation has never known life without a microwave! We don’t wait well. According to the biblical languages, I am told not only to wait, but to be positive about it! It was one thing to wait on the sidelines as a kid, but as an adult? Come on! Let’s just be honest: waiting is about being in transition and transition can bring up a multitude of feelings, most of them unpleasant!
Over the last three months I have had a crash course in waiting, watching, and attitude adjustments. After almost a year of prompting by Spirit I did it; I quit my job, packed my stuff, and moved me and my dog to the great state of Washington in order to pursue more education. In my head I expected everything to be nicely wrapped and just waiting on me—after all, I did what Spirit prompted. I knew things would eventually work out, but did not expect to be waiting on a job, especially in this economic climate. As you can imagine, as the days passed with no calls of offers the fears grew and the questions began to surface. The questions soon led to deeper questions which I now see was part of the watching/preparing. The time I was able to dedicate to these questions has had a profound impact on the way I will go about my future work and practice. I almost missed it because I was too busy grumbling, complaining, and cursing at God about the waiting and so I forgot to participate in the watching. What I have learned (or maybe re-learned) is that the gift of waiting is the watching. Watching is finding God in the present even when the present is filled with uncertainty. Watching is our part; our participation which we do by asking the questions and going ahead by preparing ourselves as if that for which we are waiting is already here.
This year, my Advent is remembering that no matter how much I think I know what I need, God knows more. God is more creative than my wildest dreams, and when God insists that I wait, it is for a reason! My job offer did come and once again I was humbled and in awe not only because of the job itself, but because of the details that are so tailored to my situation—this job was created for me. If you find yourself like me, questioning and doubting while waiting, watch for the gift within the present and remember, God is always on time.