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On waiting

4 November 2010

I realize that I’m jumping the gun on Advent, which is still some three and half weeks away. But Advent is my favorite liturgical season and its themes speak to me most. And I am in a very Advent place right now.

Because I am extremely bad at being patient.

However, I find that I live my life in an Advent frame of mind. This is not to say that I live my life waiting for the next, new thing. Though that is true, to a certain point. Throughout high school, I was waiting for college. Throughout college, I was waiting for real life. Now, I find myself waiting for graduate school, especially now that my application process has begun.

Advent, however, is not just about waiting for Christmas to arrive and being certain that, in four weeks, it will. Advent teaches us how the Jewish people waited for millennia for the Messiah to come. And generations upon generations died without ever seeing the promise fulfilled. Waiting is a very real thing itself, not just a means to an end.

People have told me that waiting, hoping, longing, all of it is part of what it means to be in your 20s. That your 20s are where you finally figure out where you are going in life, where you start to rule out things you do not want to do or be, and where you begin to emerge as yourself. This all may be true, but it makes me wary. Quoting Fr. Alfred D’Souza:

For a long time it seemed to me that life was just about to begin—real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one.

Happiness is a journey, not a destination…

If anything, this is my fear about waiting: that one day I will wake up and realize that I missed living my life because I was waiting for something else to come along.

But this, I am convinced, is not the waiting towards which Advent points. In liturgy, Advent keeps us from celebrating Christmas early. It beckons us to reflect on the liminality, the in-betweenness of waiting. Of anticipating something but not yet being it. Advent calls us to be present with our waiting itself, rather than focusing on what we are waiting for.

But Advent is not just the four weeks that precede Christmas. Advent is a reality of our lives, of what it means to be human. In the haunting final words of Alexandre Dumas, père’s classic, The Count of Monte Cristo: “Wait, and hope.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. Lee Thomas permalink
    5 November 2010 09:14

    Succinct, and beautiful.

    And in a way, you’re not really jumping the gun: check out Sunday’s readings in the RCL. We start “preparing to prepare” a few weeks out now. (I don’t really feel quite as sour about the RCL as this reads, but I’ll let it stand!)

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