Watching NFL with my boys on Sunday afternoon tells me much about the world. The boys toss the football in the backyard during halftime commercials, and I observe the messages the world wants to feed me. Laughter! Parties! And weeks spent on white sand, treading in cerulean blue waves – the best of life, right? We are conditioned to think that life is mostly easy, interrupted by random and spontaneous spats of hard.
Except, a quick survey of friends down the street (and those in other states) reveals that these days have been the inverse: a lot of hard interrupted by random, spontaneous spats of reprieve.
- And so much of that hard is … the waiting.
Waiting on a marriage to heal, a prodigal to return home. Waiting on financial stability, the healing of a parent or a babe, an empty womb… as many as there are friends in my life, there are the waiting rooms.
Perhaps all of us need a reorientation around a life spent waiting.
- Advent means: He is coming, and He has come. Both.
We find ourselves in the one season a year during which we can practice staying in the tension of His presence and His not-yet but promised coming. We're invited into this same tension every day in each of our waiting rooms, but underneath the snow resting on twinkle-lit evergreens and the scent of pine that floods your senses as you enter your neighbor's home, there are the whispers of advent: while we wait on God… God is here.
Twelve years of my infertility ended on October 24, 2013. After that, I thought I'd experienced all I needed to know about waiting on God.
For those long years that I didn't wear stretchmarks but carried gifts to friends' baby showers and paid hospital visits – watching newborns sleep in their tired mama's arms – and brought meals to first-time moms, I thought that all the aches that surfaced during that wait were unique to that wait.
I felt anxious – why not me, God – and angry and overlooked. I spent my life telling many that God was good, yet in private I wondered why His goodness must have run short for me. The waiting room surfaced questions about God, insecurities about myself, and fears about the future I never had before I discovered my broken womb.
In the waiting, I felt squirrely; surely there were steps I should be taking, methodologies that would end this. I lived shadowed, celebrating others' light-and-bright moments and yet aching for what was my darkness.
So, when that October 24th came, and my wait was over, I passively assumed I'd given my time there.
I didn't know then that life is a series of long stints in the waiting room, interrupted occasionally – sometimes rarely – by October 24th's. I didn't realize then that the people of God are formed in the waiting, and that part of growing into a more significant experience and understanding of God would mean that I would wait again. And again. (And again.)
Each of these times, some of the same aches would surface. All… so that God might reach me.
The sides of myself that I can more easily ignore when I'm not waiting move from the haunting shadows into the light of God's exposure when I wait. Anxiety is right in front of me. I'd wake up to future-casting fear and irritation with my life. The wait is uncomfortable because *I* am uncomfortable. Who I am in the waiting room puts an edge on the wait.
You see, God gifts us our own “advents” that reveal our darkened places so that He might show our weak sides – the side that needs to be cradled.
- I've learned how to be held in the waiting.
Isaiah 9:2 reads:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness on them has light shone.
We resist the darkened, shadowed parts of ourselves – noticing them, naming them, spending more than a few seconds looking their way – but He doesn't.
My God turns my darkness into light. — Psalm 18:28
My three-year-old started talking about the Christmas tree in June. "I want to see the lights on the Christmas tree." Each night in December, she'd pad in her footie pajamas out to the balcony next to her bedroom and stare at the tree, lit up against the shadows of our great room. Her knuckles wrapped around the spindles, and her nose pressed through the spaces in between, transfixed. Of course, she still remembered it in June. The juxtaposition of light against darkness is brilliant to the ones who will notice… to the toddlers whose entire life plan is observation.
We resist the darkened parts of ourselves when we feel strong, and life is on time – but when they come out into the light, they remind us that we are still children. We still need to be held. Our greatest life craving is to be received in all our complexity and mess.
Better than the backyard barbeque and the breath-catching vacation by the sea, and even the happy family circling around the Christmas tree in December – the life we're sold every day as the best life – are the days of being a child, held secure against the uncertain world around us, transfixed by the light against darkness.
We become more fully ourselves during the Advent wait – held by God (because we're so weak that we just have to be) while waiting on God.
The Lord is good to those who wait for Him (Lamentations 3:25) – there are parts of His goodness that we will only know when we wait.
Advent: while we wait on God … God is here.
Written for Devotionals Daily by Sara Hagerty, author of Adore.
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Are you waiting? Are you weak? You’re in good company. Believers throughout the ages have waited, their own personal advent, and found God to be so present, so dear. So good. Rest in your held-ness today. ~ Devotionals Daily