What am I waiting for?

“What am I waiting for?”

“That doesn’t matter…you’re waiting.” 

“How will I know when I’m done waiting?”

“That doesn’t matter either. Your job is to wait.”

“So I’m just sitting there, not doing anything?”

“No, you’re waiting. Waiting is not passive.”

I looked at my friend Douglas, confused. 

“That makes no sense.”

“It’s not supposed to make sense. You’re waiting. God is doing everything else.” 

I am a person who is constantly looking for excitement. I avoid pain at all costs. I can’t sit around idle. I do not like waiting. Waiting is difficult. It’s uncomfortable. 

However, I recently learned that waiting is absolutely necessary.

My most recent period of waiting began about a month and a half ago. October 12th 2021 was definitely the most difficult day I ever lived. Faced with difficult choices, to either stop and focus on my wellbeing or continue down a path of desolation and deep unhappiness.

 I made the tough decision to hit the breaks and begin a difficult period of waiting to focus on building a healthy and balanced life. While I won’t go into details during this sermon, the alternative was not pretty, and frankly was not an option for me.

 Setting aside fear, negative self-talk that I’m only as good as what I can achieve, and the other nagging voices of shame and disappointment, I decided I had to hand the wheel over to God and begin the long difficult process of waiting and healing.

It was not easy.. I felt like my problems were causing problems for other people. It felt like an intolerable failure.

Waiting does not have to be like this. According to our faith story, waiting should not be like this. 

Waiting in the Christian faith is always a time of growth and reliance on God to provide. 

Take for example our  liturgical year. Advent isn’t a season of intense action. It doesn’t start with God swooping in to save us from our enemies or ourselves. The Church year doesn’t start with anything joyful, exciting or brilliant. 

During Advent we wait in preparation and hope. Advent begins with a pregnancy. As we hear in the prophetic texts, our Advent journey also begins with prophets describing what awaits them if they trust that God is doing more for them than they can presently imagine or see in the midst of hurt and alienation.  

Neither of these things, however grim they may appear on the outside, are God’s final answer. Waiting, even if it is hard, especially if it’s hard, is holy. 

Advent forces us to live day by day in preparation and hope. Advent reminds us that we are not in charge, but are in the loving care of a God who is active and shaping something beautiful that we cannot even imagine -a child formed nine months in the womb a return to the promised homeland for exiled people.

The same is true for us. We must learn to wait and trust that if we are faithful to what God asks of us, God will be revealed in ways that are beyond our understanding or imagination. 

This stands in contrast to our desire to be “busy.” The church is no exception to this tendency.

We often get distracted with the amount of  tasks we have to accomplish.. Programs, growth to turn the tide on membership decline. We rush to prepare for this or that. We seek eagerly seek “volunteers” to keep ministries running, oftentimes past their prime because to do otherwise would be seen as a failure. We see our fellow parishioners, and yes even our clergy, as a means to productivity and “services rendered.”

Maybe we should hit the brakes and learn to wait? 

“So we’re just sitting here, not doing anything?”

 “No, we’re waiting. Waiting is not passive.”

Advent shows us what we are actually doing while waiting. 

We’re repenting.

But this sort of repentance doesn’t entail finger wagging, numerating sins and pointing out the faults in others or ourselves. When the prophets called people to repent it was often coupled with “return to the Lord.” Come back to what God desires of you. 

Whatever is getting between you and God…remove it. We are preparing ourselves for what God is doing even if that action is unknown to us, even if it is uncomfortable or outright scary. 

John the Baptist reminds us this. He was a wild person who tossed aside all the conventions of his society, wore camel’s hair and lived in the wilderness eating locusts. He proclaimed:

Repent!

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.

Every valley shall be filled,

and every mountain and hill shall be made low, 

and the crooked shall be made straight,

and the rough ways made smooth;

We too must follow the baptizer’s instruction.

Whatever is getting in between you and God…tear it down.

A wise friend shared with me some advice to help me through my own period of waiting, and I’ll add repentance. I would like to share this with you. 

Rituals, Routines, Relationships- we build these while we wait and prepare for God’s coming. 

It’s made my own time of waiting and returning to God’s desire for me productive and healing. 

Find rituals that connect you to God. 

Spiritual practices connect us to God’s vision for us. Prayer, contemplation, worship, sacraments, the study of scripture, Morning cups of coffee in silence, hiking, yoga. The act isn’t as important as where our attentions are directed. Rituals remind us that our being fits inside a much larger being and vision that is beyond our reasoning and comprehension.  They silence our voice, enabling us to hear God, and allow us to see and mend crooked, rough places in our lives.  

Ritual is essential for a healthy life. It is essential for a healthy spiritual life. There is no difference between the two.

We must then work these rituals into a routine. Even God keeps a healthy schedule. God created for six days and then rested. We, made in the image of God, are not made to stuff our schedules full with as much as inhumanly possible. 

We are not made for unending productivity, despite what our jobs, world, and yes even capitalist mindsets tell us. Sabbath is essential in the waiting game in the same way that work and labor are essential. Let go of the idea that you are only as valuable as what you’re able to produce and then build a healthy life around that. 

We are worth so much more than our capacity to achieve” Do not forget and learn to accept that God delights in your “being.” not your “doing”

Finally, while waiting, we need relationship. This probably sounds obvious. We need people around us who love us and support us. We are creatures of community. 

But we need the right kind of community. We need people around us who deeply know us, accept us and remind us…we are not in our waiting alone. Acts of turning back to God and smoothing out the rough places within ourselves is HARD work. We need authentic, trusting, supportive people beside us on this journey.

Isn’t this how the Advent story begins? 

“Mary! Do not be afraid. The Lord is with you!” 

God is with her through other people.  Mary visits Elizabeth, she is cared for by Jospeh. Mary’s waiting is shared and accompanied with others and so must ours.

This is perhaps the church’s greatest gift. Community.

[Thank you for your prayers and support the past month.]

“What are we waiting for?” 

There is much to be done, much to make ready, much to love and nurture.

Let’s wait together.