Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tuesday Reflections: Waiting for Christmas

Our grandson Peter has been at our house frequently lately, and each time he has arrived he has checked out the presents underneath the Christmas tree. He is six, and these days of waiting are interminably long for him. The other day he spotted a large package labelled for him, and I could feel the curiosity, the hope, the "please, let this be what I asked for" rise up in him. He didn't pick it up or shake it, but merely looked at it and then distracted himself by asking if he could watch "Star Wars." Frankly, I was impressed, and once again realized how the young people in our lives have much to teach us. 

Peter seemed to understand that "now" was not time time to open that present and no amount of cajoling would change that situation. He seemed to know that soon it would be time, and he would relish it all the more for the waiting. He was able to let it go and move onto something else that could give him pleasure and contentment in the moment. He seemed to know he could handle the wait. 

Think about all the times you have needed to wait for something--something that can only happen with time and can't be pushed or shoved or faked into being. Have you waited for
* Results of medical tests to arrive?
* A delayed flight to appear at the gate?
* A package to arrive?
* Water to boil?
* A long sleepless night to pass?
* The pain of grief and loss to diminish?
* The birth of a baby to be announced?
* A loved one to return?
* A job to be offered?
* A home to be sold?
* A cold or the flu to end?

When have you waited for change, a new direction or calling, an ease of your situation, a problem to be solved? An announcement to be made? When have you waited for a wish to be fulfilled and to be able to share the good news? 

Not one of us proceeds through this life without waiting, and I don't just mean waiting in a long line at Target. Each of us has known the kind of waiting which causes your heart to stop or your eyes to sting; the kind of waiting in which everything seems to be either in slow motion or swirling around you. 

Advent is that kind of waiting or at least offers us a chance to become more intimate with waiting and how waiting can help us grow and deepen awareness of how God moves in our lives. 

Over the two years of waiting for our house in Madison to sell I referred frequently to an excellent book about waiting, Seven Spiritual Gifts of Waiting by Holly W. Whitcomb. http://store.augsburgfortress.org/store/product/7240/Seven-Spiritual-Gifts-of-Waiting The gifts she examines are patience, loss of control, living in the present, compassion, gratitude, humility, and trust in God. Take your pick--they all apply when you are in a state of waiting. Notice that Whitcomb does not include giving up or being passive or throwing temper tantrums or not caring or blaming others for your misery. 

Instead, she writes about being available to others and developing resilience, relinquishing worry, and gathering strength from others.
          Waiting is an important guest to honor in the guest
           house of our humanity. If we consciously allow 
           waiting to be our teacher, we can accommodate
           waiting more peacefully. If we welcome waiting as
           a spiritual discipline, waiting will present its
           spiritual gifts. Waiting contains some of our richest
           spiritual opportunities if we are conscious enough and
           courageous enough to name them and live into them.
                                                         p. 13

Lately, our family has experienced waiting. Our granddaughter Maren was in the hospital for a few days. Starting with a very sore throat and then having severe breathing problems, she was admitted into Children's Hospital with bacterial tracheitis and was hit hard with what her Papa calls "Big Gun" antibiotics. She received excellent care, and she is recovering, but the whole experience required lots of waiting not only by all of us who love her, but also Maren herself has needed to wait. 

As she accepted calmly and even with interest what the plan was, she taught us how to wait with grace. At the same time she was able to ask for what she needed and be a participant in her own  treatment. She showed generosity of spirit when she expressed concern  for a child in the ER who was having a seizure, even though she herself was in pain.  She missed her school party and ski outings and other fun holiday events, but has done so without feeling sorry for herself. 

         In order to convert the inescapable lessons of waiting 
         into deliberate spiritual gifts, we, too, have to be 
         present; we need to pay attention. We need to actively
         participate in this dramatic conversion from waiting as
         something to be endured to waiting as a gift.
                                               p. 13

Waiting is more than a fact of life; it is an opportunity to practice being awake. When the waiting is finally over, how good it will be to know we have not missed living and being in our own lives. 

An Invitation
Are you in a time of waiting right now? If so, what can you do to be more present to both the waiting and to yourself as you wait? I would love to know.

PS: I won't be posting on Thursday, Christmas Day, but will return on Tuesday, December 30. Have a blessed holiday, however you celebrate or honor the sacred. 

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