When I was engaged, I spent a lot of time scrolling through wedding planning forums. My now-husband and I had a longer than usual engagement. We had only been dating a little over a year when he proposed, but our engagement went on for almost 18 months. This was not either of our first choices, but the trickiness of a long-distance relationship that would only close when the wedding bells rang combined with inflexible commitments at our jobs left us, it seemed at the time, in a perpetual state of wedding planning. It was a discouraging day when I realized he had been my fiance longer than he had been my boyfriend, and we still had almost six months to go. So I scrolled through wedding planning websites and made budget spreadsheets, a part of me wondering if the day would ever really come.
Waiting for Christ
It can be difficult, sometimes, when reading the Old Testament, to sympathize with the predicament of the people of Israel before the coming of Christ. 2,000 years after the Messiah’s birth, the idea of waiting for him to come seems remote at best. We read the laments and the longings of those writers as something from long ago. When David cries out “How long, Lord? Will you hide forever? Must your wrath smolder like fire?” (Ps. 89:47) we already know the answer. Of course, God did not hide forever. Of course, Christ came.
Now, six months on the other side of our trip to the altar, I wish that I could look back and tell myself to relax, that I would get there. But instead, I find myself with a whole new list of things to wait for. I’m waiting to buy a house, I’m waiting to start my second Master’s degree, and of course, I’m waiting for the day I find out I’m expecting our first child. This last is only exacerbated by the expectation of those around me. “How long, Lord?”
If my little calendar filled with chocolates is to be trusted, we’re currently in the season of Advent. Advent, like no other time in the Church year, is a time for waiting. Waiting to celebrate the birth of Christ and a reminder that we too are waiting for Christ’s return. I remember how, as a kid, the days leading up to Christmas seemed to stretch out forever, as if I would never really make it. And yet Christmas did come, and it came every year.
Perhaps the biggest cross among all this waiting is the fear that what we hope for will never arrive. “Will you hide forever? Must your wrath smolder like fire?”
When I was an undergraduate waiting to get my Bachelors, I feared that I would fail at the last minute and not graduate. When I was a single woman, I feared that I would never find a husband or any vocation at all. When I was applying for jobs, I feared I would never be hired. Now I have a new set of fears about career and family. Instead of scrolling through wedding planning websites I started to do the same on forums about pregnancy and parenting. That is, until the start of Advent.
Advent is a penitential season and, though it is not required, it is a practice among some to find something to give up for the season. This isn’t something I’ve done in the past, but this year I felt inspired. I gave up reading through those forums that were, in the end, doing nothing but causing me anxiety. Am I likely to have an entirely problem-free pregnancy and parenting experience? Of course not. But will I encounter every single possible problem? The odds are astronomical. And I don’t want to look back in two or three or ten years and realize that I did not enjoy this time, likely to be so short in the total scheme of our marriage when it is just me and my husband in our first little apartment.
Nothing is guaranteed. Perhaps we will face infertility, job loss, a sudden move to somewhere with no support system, or any other number of issues. But time and time again I learn the hard lesson–grace is only provided for the present moment. What will I do if our house that we don’t have yet burns down? What will I do if I get pregnant but there are serious complications? What will I do if a sinkhole opens up underneath my car and swallows it whole? I have no idea, and I don’t need to know. Because even if the worst comes, God will be there in that moment. I will plan, yes. But with God’s grace, I won’t obsess.
Slow Down and Embrace the Silence
These days the wait for Christmas is no longer as agonizing as it was when I was a child. In fact, if anything I find myself needing to purposely slow down and look around me, to make sure that the decorations get put up and the cookies get made and the Christmas movies get watched. I know that if I don’t slow myself down, the years will fly by and I’ll look up in a few decades wondering what happened. I don’t want to spend my time wishing my life away waiting for the next thing like I used to wish away the days leading up to Christmas.
Perhaps the answer can be found in the book of Zechariah, written over 500 years before the birth of Christ.
“Silence, all people, in the presence of the Lord, who stirs forth from his holy dwelling” (Zec. 2:17).
Christ is here in our midst. He is here in the waiting. He is here in the silence. Whatever your present circumstances, look for him and you will find him. Now, a year from now, and at the end of time.