Oh this is rich people. This is rich.
I’m mildly familiar with advent (emphasis on mildly). So, I knew it was about waiting. What I have missed until recent years is that the way America (and it could be the rest of the world too, but I don’t want to throw others under the bus with me) prepares for Christmas puts much of the emphasis on building up to Christmas Day. Then, poof, the season is over.
Instead, the Church Year has: Advent, Christmas (the 12 days of Christmas), and then Epiphany.
“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.” (page 19, The Circle of Seasons)
I appreciate that this first week of advent the word is “Wait.”
Probably like 99% of the population, I want other people to be good at waiting and hope to arrange my life so that I can minimized it. So, this advent season, I am on the lookout for waiting. I’m going to use it as a reminder to not merely, but actively wait. 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 counter balance 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.
Here are a few instance I noticed waiting woven into my life:
1. I’ve been working with an amazing blog designer to revamp the look and functionality of The Messy Middle. I cannot wait for you to see it! Ha! Do you hear me? I can wait, I will wait! But thankfully, not much longer. On Wednesday I’m excited to give you a tour and let you poke around yourself. This season of waiting is almost done. Yippee! If you subscribe by email and don’t see one on Wednesday morning, please look in your spam.
2. My book: I’m at the stage where others are helping me with the back cover and the formatting. (Christie and Andy these are big shout outs to you). The do something and then email it back to me for my input. It’s a little like hurry up and wait. In a good way, but also with a bit of pressure. Am I noticing the little details I need to be noticing? Am I making the right decisions about font, size, color? Will this really be worth all the effort many have invested? Even when we are done, there is still more waiting because Looming Transitions won’t be in your hot little hands until January. This experience with waiting is so loaded. I feel honored, excited, like I’m risking a lot, like I’m risking very little because so many steps have God’s presence.
3. I’m waiting on myself. UGH. This one is the worst. I need to do some follow up communication with people after the end of a project and I don’t know why I am dragging my feet. Can anyone else relate?
4. This one involves Niece #4 and I see myself reflected in it more than I want to. Last week our family was at a store and with birthdays and holidays around the corner my sister, her mother, shooed all of us outside. When we got outside, #4 said, “I need to go back in there.” I asked her why (the bathroom was inside, so not 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 so much easier to wait, isn’t it? It’s the not knowing that makes active waiting so hard.
5. I had to add number 5 on Sunday afternoon. Things happened at church that were tragic. We’re all reeling. I’m not going to say more, but we find ourselves in shock. When the shock wears off, there will be waiting . . . and I’m just sad.
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.
Whether you’re reading The Circle of Seasons or not, where do you see active waiting in your life right now? How might it be forming you? If you are reading the book, what other thoughts stood out to you in the section?
P.S. My friend Britta Lafont is also interested in the Church Year. Next week we’ll hear from her! And later this week we’re going to be doing some short filming. This still a work in progress :). You know, changing the orientation of our souls will be a bit messy, right? And I’ll see you on Wednesday with the new look!