Waiting disguises itself as nothing.
We all experience it. Baited breath. Wringing hands. Hours and days and months of,”Why, God? When, God?”
A few months ago, I picked up a copy of When The Heart Waits for 5o cents at a thrift store. I grabbed it because it was written by Sue Monk Kidd, the author of Secret Life of Bees, which is a powerful, moving novel.
I skimmed a few chapters, and then the new-to-me book got lost in the shuffle of coloring books and lost socks and crushed Cheerios. But the book’s premise — the idea of waiting being something more — stuck with me. It nestled into my heart. Because wait is real. I’ve lived it and I will live it again. I have sweet friends who are in the ache of waiting right now.
And I think there are some of them, some of you, who need to read this: “I hope you’ll hear what I’m about to tell you. I hope you’ll hear it all the way down to your toes. When you’re waiting, you’re not doing nothing. You’re doing the most important something there is. You’re allowing your soul to grow up. If you can’t be still and wait, you can’t become what God wanted you to be.”
Waiting is nothing = a cultural myth. Why? Because to wait is to experience God in a raw, tangible way. Waiting is acting, it’s moving, it’s churning in our very souls.
Sue Monk Kidd puts it this way (emphasis mine): “One day, while I was reading the Gospels, it occurred to me that when important times of transition came for Jesus, he entered enclosures of waiting — the wilderness, a garden, the tomb. Jesus’ life was a balanced rhythm of waiting on God and expressing the fruits of that waiting.”
What if waiting is something more? Something where pain doesn’t disappear, but rather becomes a driving force in our formation? What if we were bold enough to endure seasons of waiting because doing so means becoming fully ourselves — fully who God created us to be?
“I had tended to view waiting as mere passivity. When I looked it up in my dictionary, however, I found that the words passive and passion come from the same Latin root, pati, which means “to endure.” Waiting is thus both passive and passionate. It’s a vibrant, contemplative work. It means descending into self, into God, into the deeper labyrinths of prayer,” says Monk Kidd. “It involves listening to disinherited voices within, facing the wounded holes in the soul, the denied and undiscovered, the places one lives false. It means struggling with the vision of who we we really are in God and molding the courage to live that vision.”
If you find yourself waiting, you’re not alone. It’s the furthest thing from easy. Because maybe for months or even years now, you wake up with an ache in your very soul. An ache that lingers as you work, a burden that manages to lodge itself into laughter. Be brave. Kneel down and lean in and keep waiting.
I recently read Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s advent devotional, God is in the Manger. In his collection of writings, Bonhoeffer says that waiting is an art. That the wait precedes the joy. “Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting — that is, of hopefully doing without — will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment.“
So, we live in the tension of anticipation and waiting and disappointment and joy. They swirl around us as we, as Bonhoeffer writes, “patiently look forward with anticipation until the truth is revealed.”
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