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I compose and post these articles with only one desire in my heart: to praise God and to offer modest help on your spiritual journey.

Friday, November 28, 2014

WAITING

For many Christians this week began the season of waiting called
Advent. The stores started the season earlier than years past with
Christmas decorations at Halloween. Commercials on T.V. have already
begun to bore us with repetitive Christmas songs.

Waiting is hard. When we small town folks visit the big city we have
to endure traffic and longer lines at the stores than we are accustom
to in Mohave County. We find ourselves less patient than the big city
folks that have joined us in line. We complain about waiting in
traffic on Stockton Hill Road or the main highway in Bullhead City or
Lake Havasu. We find ourselves complaining about having 3 people in
the checkout lines at Safeway or Smith’s. I don’t know if it is more
difficult in today’s world. We used to think of problems with waiting
to be a child’s problem. Now it seems to be more difficult for us as
adults. We are accustomed to instant answers on the internet, next day
delivery, and microwave dinners in less than the time it took our
mother’s to peel potatoes. Waiting is irritating. It can push all the
wrong buttons.

It seems to me that in generations past waiting was different. Waiting
was more anticipation. It also was the test of maturity. Another way
of talking about this was delayed gratification. Teaching us as
children to wait for dad to get home so we could have dinner that has
already filled the house with salivating smells was far more common
than today. Now in the pressure of working parents and extracurricular
activities it’s a drive a fast food chain and usually a short waiting
in line.

Today’s popular image of waiting is hurrying to finish our
Thanksgiving meal so we can wait in line at the big stores for the big
sale. Americans can’t even wait for Black Friday anymore. Where’s the
virtue or the test of maturity in this? It’s more a test of endurance
than patience. More a test of keeping your cool than the creativity of
anticipation.

How things change. In Catholic culture the tree was not decorated
until the night before Christmas and the 12 days of Christmas meant
the days between December 25th and January 6th. Now the trees are
taken down the day after Christmas or the weekend following.

It does no good to bemoan what is and long for yesterday. The
challenge is to learn from what is and find meaning not only for
ourselves but for our children. What, then, is the meaning of Advent?
What meaning can we discover in the weeks before Christmas? What
virtues can we form in celebrating our Savior’s birth?

In our “I want it now” culture, waiting is countercultural. It is the
nemesis of instant gratification and convenience. The virtue and test
of maturity is not delayed gratification but patience. The root of
this word is to suffer. Suffering inconvenience. Suffer the loss of
precious time. Suffer the lack of consideration so often found in
traffic or in the store line. Finding ways to embrace this suffering
in order to discover the gift of the time between things.

The gift of a song on the way to the store. The gift of a smile by a
stranger in line. The gift of a friendly conversation with a total
stranger while waiting in line. The gift of the opportunity to talk
or share with a family member or friend while in traffic waiting your
turn at the light. These smaller gifts can awaken us to the much
larger gift of time, family, even community. The irritation of getting
the gift can turn into the gift of embracing the wait to enjoy what is
before us.

The traditional meaning of Advent is “preparation”. Be prepared, the
Lord is coming. Preparing these days means stress in getting things
done. Perhaps Advent today is being surprised by the little gifts we
find in Christmas shopping and decorations. Little gifts of memory
from our childhood or little gifts we can give away without money or
sacrifice, the gift of appreciating the clerk, letting someone get in
line in front of us. The gift of a renewed faith in mankind when
someone offers to let us go ahead of them in line.

Indeed the meaning of things may have changed, but the opportunity to
create new meaning never changes.

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