“Unfortunately Advent as a liturgical season focused on waiting and inward preparation has disappeared culturally; even in the church we often ignore its call to reflection. Advent has become ‘the holiday season,’ and we measure it in the number of shopping days left before the twenty-fifth of December rolls around.” (Kimberlee Conway Ireton, The Circle of Seasons)
Probably like 99% of the population, I want other people to be good at waiting. For myself? I try to arrange my life so that I can minimize it.
But I know that waiting is one of the ways that God forms us. So, this advent I am on the lookout for opportunities to wait. I’m trying to use the spiritual practice of active waiting.
Kimberlee quoted from one of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen:
“Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it. A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is the moment.”
Wow. To be present fully to the moment. Yes, my soul says. That is the kind of person I want to be.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about throwing the baby out with the bath water. I’m still going to obsess over Christmas lights (the more the better. Right?! Right?!!!), eat holiday treats, buy presents, fuss over how fast time is passing.
I walk on the ground and live a real life. I know you do too.
I’ve been tuning in to active waiting as a counterbalance to some of the traditional ways of celebrating Christmas. As I tune in, I’m trying to let the sensation—at times annoyance—of anticipation form my soul too.
Several years ago, my youngest niece put into words why waiting is so hard. After spending the morning at the zoo, we popped into the gift shop. With birthdays and holidays around the corner my sister, her mother, shooed all of us outside. When we got outside my niece said, “I need to go back in there.” I asked her why; the bathroom was inside, so not a completely unrealistic request.
“I want to double check that Mom is getting the stuffed animal I want.”
“Well,” I replied, “your birthday is in two days, so you’ll need to wait.”
A small demon spat at me, “My birthday is in THREE DAYS and I just want to KNOW if I’m getting it or not. I do not want to wait!”
Girlfriend, I feel ya! Doesn’t that cut right to the heart of it for each of us? If we know how something is going to turn out, it’s easier to wait, isn’t it? It’s the not knowing that makes active waiting so hard.
But this is what God has called us to do. To actively wait in the messy middle of our lives. To actively wait for Christ’s entrance into our stories. To actively wait, noticing where He is at work.
God has not left us in the waiting room of life. Instead, He’s inviting us to incorporate waiting into our lives and allow the mere act of waiting to form us as we go about.
Knowing that it is both hard and important for our souls to wait, this month’s workshop is presented by a Spiritual Director. If you have ever participated in a Velvet Ashes retreat, you know how powerful it can be to have someone guide you through, in this case, Advent activities. Get it today, don’t wait until the end of the month.
How might is active waiting forming you?
P.S. Have you gotten your Christmas present from Global Trellis? These 5 Ways to Meet Jesus This Advent might help with the active waiting you’ll do this month.