“I just can’t wait!” seems to be the phrase of the season in our house right now. The number of Advent wreath candles left to be lit and the number of Jesse Tree ornaments left to put up are carefully calculated every day. Questions like, “But how long is 18 more days?” are asked frequently as my youngest children still struggle to grasp the concept of time.
I remember feeling as they do once upon a time. I remember gazing into the lights of our Christmas tree, imagining all of the wonderful things that would appear underneath it the night before Christmas. I remember feeling that the waiting seemed unbearable, and that there was nothing as exciting or worthwhile as that moment when I first laid eyes on all of the childhood delights that magically appeared while I restlessly slept.
But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself wanting to slow time more often than rush it. As my children grow, I sometimes suddenly have a vision of a house with no toys underfoot and no little feet and voices constantly filling our home with life and joy. I know every phase of life will bring with it new and different pleasures, but that doesn’t lessen the pain that pricks my heart at the thought of leaving these younger years of our family behind.
I can’t deny that there are days when I can’t wait for my husband to get home, days when I can’t wait for my toddler to outgrow the into-everything-all-the-time phase, days when I can’t wait for my daughter to permanently leave her temper tantrums behind. But it is in those moments that I have to stop, take a breath, and realize that it is by waiting that I find opportunity to grow closest to God. It is by waiting that I seek the love and generosity I need to meet my husband at the door with a kiss and a smile, even while dinner is burning on the stove, my two year old is doing something he shouldn’t be in the bathroom, and my six year old is begging for some unreasonable request to be fulfilled. It is by waiting that I seek the patience I need to pick up the contents from the same cupboard my toddler emptied five times already that morning. It is by waiting that I seek the kindness and gentleness I need to effectively and sympathetically handle my child’s emotional meltdowns. It is by waiting that I demonstrate my faith that all of these pieces of my life are also pieces of God’s plan for me, and that I will experience the fruits of these difficult moments when He knows my heart has been formed properly to receive them.
Perhaps this is why Mary responded with an unhesitant and certain “Yes” when she was asked to bear God’s Son. The world needed saving. Not saving through a flash of light, clap of thunder, and immediate conversion of all, but saving through a gentle and humble heart. A heart willing to wait with faith and patience to witness the fullness of God’s plan. A heart that waited nine months to give birth and 30 more years to fully understand what her child’s mission was on earth. A heart that waited for her Son to die as it slowly tore in two with every physical pain that He endured. By His stripes we were healed, and by His mother’s faithful waiting we were inspired.
What valuable lessons we fail to learn when we are too impatient to wait!
Sometimes I fear my prayers are in vain, that some problems in our culture are almost too big even for God. I grow impatient and wonder why God doesn’t just fix this right now! That’s when I look to Mary’s “yes” and realize that my timing is not God’s. My obligation is to faithfully say “yes” to a devout prayer life and Catholic lifestyle, even though I don’t know if some of those prayers will be answered during my lifetime.
Some of today’s problems may not be resolved until judgment day, but I find hope in the fact that waiting with complete trust in God’s omnipotent wisdom will ensure that the part I play in His plan is one that will lead me to Him when my final day arrives.
Spend some time this Advent learning the art of peacefully waiting in the comfort of God’s embrace. Leave behind excessive shopping, baking, and decorating to reflect on the joy that Mary must have felt with each passing day of her pregnancy. Enjoy every moment, whether it brings pleasure or pain, as an opportunity to grow closer to God and receive His great gift of faith. We may not know what tomorrow will bring, but the Incarnation is proof that the best things in both this life and the next truly are worth waiting for.