Desert Discipline

For many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are
and where they want to go. And people do not like such a place.
They want to get out of it by doing something. 

Henri Nouwen
Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas

Waiting is not a popular pastime in our culture. We want what we want, and we want it now. We want our food fast, our internet faster, and our Amazon deliveries yesterday. Waiting is hard enough when you know what’s coming, but when there is no end in sight, when prayers go unanswered, circumstances remain unchanged and expectations unmet, when days turn into months turn into years, we grow impatient and find it hard to sit still. Truth be told, it’s easier to seek human solutions and expend human resources than wait patiently on a God we can’t see and can barely hear. We worry and fret, anxiously scurrying here and there, moving house, changing jobs, spinning our wheels, only to arrive back at the beginning – still worried, still fretful, still impatient. 

Waiting, the very nature of this advent season, is a desert discipline that teaches us patience. 

Henri Nouwen writes :

A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere. The (present) moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are. Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there. Waiting then, is not passive. It involves nurturing the moment, as a mother nurtures the child that is growing in her.

Waiting is also a discipline that teaches us to unclench our fists and let go. We learn to give up the silly, futile attempts to control our lives. If 2020 has taught us anything, it has taught us that we have absolutely no control over the world we live in. Waiting teaches us to trust God with every detail of our lives as, little by little, we surrender our demands, agendas, wishes, and selfish expectations. In waiting for God alone, we learn to listen, then to hear, then to rest in hope. We learn to pray – your kingdom come, your will be done – and mean what we say. 

As I extinguish the candles, I pray:
Lord, teach me to nurture each moment, to sit quietly in this eternal now with you, waiting. Hover over me and form Christ in me until finally,
I arise out of this desert, clinging to my beloved.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. 
My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, 
more than watchmen wait for the morning
Psalms 130:5-6