Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Ache of Wait

My friend Shelly wrote an amazing blog post recently and made the statement:

"Waiting is a verb. God wants us to be active in our waiting, not passive."

It struck a deep chord in me.

We, like many others, are observing Advent right now. We have been doing a series of readings as a family on Jesus. Twenty four readings of stories about things he did and said in the Gospels. Each evening one child reads (or I did last night) and then we discuss what it is in each of them that he has given to us. Our talks have been rich - meaningful and moving. But they also seem to create a deep ache.

My daughter voiced it so well last night. "That kind of hurts my feelings," she said about something Jesus had said. "He really confuses me. Sometimes he seems so kind and then sometimes he seems so... not." 

I have to be honest. There was a definite pause and quiet as we each inwardly nodded and tried to figure out what to say next.

I'm aching right now. In fact more than aching, I feel pretty close to breaking. I'm not reading a lot of blogs right now, but a couple of my friend's words on waiting caught my attention today because in some ways that feels like all I am doing. I feel like I am caught in a never-ending season of waiting. For rescue. For relief. For answers and breakthroughs, and help , and rest. Can you relate?

And in the waiting I feel like I am dying. Whole parts of my heart and hope are diminishing just in the fight to hold on. At times I say to God: "You know, by the time you come through my heart is going to be so broken it may almost be too shattered to celebrate the breakthroughs."

I hear Jesus say to his disciples: Friends, with trust you can rest in a storm. To Martha: Sit still and be with me. To a grieving father: Young man if you believe, I can heal your child with just my words. To a despondent woman: I see your tears and felt you reach out. To a little girl: Rise, breathe and eat.

Each of them was waiting. Each of them was in a tension that caused more pain than we can read in the succinct words of the Gospel writers. They were human just like us and they were caught in a horrible tension between promises foretold and the fulfillment being waited for.

I ache for one friend whose baby is having constant seizures while her other girls need her, too. For another friend whose health has continued to break her heart and for who just breathing is an effort. For another friend who is about to end a chapter that was never supposed to close. For another who is hoping for good news at work. For my family fighting and fighting to hold on while doing what we feel so grateful to do, but it's come at a cost higher than I know if I can pay.

There is no time like Advent (looking towards our ideals of Christmas and then back to the reality of our homes) to surface our awkward, aching longings and forcing them up to gasp and breathe in the presence of someone who promises hope, who promises Emmanuel, to be with us... as we still strain and struggle to see through the haze of everyday hurts and life.

My friend Shelly wrote on:

So how do we wait?

Prepare – Respond to God and His promises, engage in conversation and excavate the purpose in waiting.
Repent – If Christ returned today, what would I do to make things right?
Live like it Matters – If the Gospel is true then nothing else matters. Be a full participant in redemption knowing we have a unique call to live differently.

My other friend Shannon said it this way:

"Thus far, Advent has not gone exactly as I imagined. ... If Advent is about waiting and listening, then I think it's important to listen to what's going on...  I can insist we push through and take advantage of all this season has to offer. Or I can let my own grand plans slip through my fingers like sand from the beach. That sounds a lot more like a grace-filled Advent to me."

And there is that tension again. Waiting with grace. Waiting with hands splayed, while dreams and hopes and tears are slipping through. And waiting with expectation. With preparation. Like it matters.

I've been making a lot of choices to live from my heart and not my head recently. And, quite frankly, it hurts. I admit that there is a temptation to wait passively. To let go of promises. To conceptualize and analyze it and distance myself from the feelings in it. Or to let my eyes flitter too long on the stable and manure, and not on the wonder in the shepherds' eyes.

But I heard Shelley's call. To ask again: What is Your purpose in my waiting? To ask: Please, help me see the treasures of holding on? To say: Yes, stir expectation where I don't even want any more.

I am asking for help to see.


Jennifer Jo said...

My thoughts are with you. Courage and peace and wide-open eyes, dear one.

TS said...

Regarding your daughter's sentiment, Chesterton writes interestingly of Christ in the NT in "The Everlasting Man":

We have all heard people say a hundred times over, for they seem never to tire of saying it, that the Jesus of the New Testament is indeed a most merciful and humane lover of humanity, but that the Church has bidden this human character in repellent dogmas and stiffened it with ecclesiastical terrors till it has taken on an inhuman character. This is, I venture to repeat, very nearly the reverse of the truth. The truth is that it is the image of Christ in the churches that is almost entirely mild and merciful. It is the image of Christ in the Gospels that is a good many other things as well. The figure in the Gospels does indeed utter in words of almost heartbreaking beauty his pity for our broken hearts. But they are very far from being the only sort of words that he utters. Nevertheless they are almost the only kind of words that the Church in its popular imagery ever represents him as uttering. That popular imagery is inspired by a perfectly sound popular instinct. T he mass of the poor are broken, and the mass of the people are poor, and for the mass of mankind the main thing is to carry the conviction of the incredible compassion of God. But nobody with his eyes open can doubt that it is chiefly this idea of compassion that the popular machinery of the Church does seek to carry. The popular imagery carries a great deal to excess the sentiment of 'Gentle Jesus, meek and mild.' It is the first thing that the outsider feels and criticizes in a Pieta or a shrine of the Sacred Heart.

As I say, while the art may be insufficient, I am not sure that the instinct is unsound. In any case there is something appalling, something at makes the blood run cold, in the idea of having a statue Christ in wrath. There is something insupportable even to imagination in the idea of turning the comer of a street 'coming out into the spaces of a market-place, to meet petrifying petrifaction of that figure as it turned upon a generation of vipers, or that face as it looked at the face of a hypocrite. The Church can reasonably be justified therefore if she turns the most merciful face or aspect towards men; it is certainly the most merciful aspect that she does turn. And the point is here that it is very much more specially and exclusively merciful than any impression that could that could be formed by a man merely reading the New Testament for the first time. A man simply taking the words of the story as they stand would form quite another impression; an impression full of mystery and possibly of inconsistency; but certainly not merely an impression of mildness.

Anonymous said...

Misha, I had a friend visit from your blog today alerting me to the fact that you linked to my blog. First, that brought me to tears because when the words I write resonate, I know Christ is at work and that is all that matters. I really hate that you are suffering because well, you have done enough of that darn it. I just love you so much and that heart that God gave you is beyond words. And I know it doesn't make the pain or circumstances go away but the way you live life makes us want to fight for it too. You inspire, give hope. Seems that there is a heightened state of spiritual warfare that is coming from all directions. Praying feverently on so many levels and now for you too!

WordGirl said...

I have wondered how your waiting and healing have been going. Just yesterday I prayed for you as I ran. I prayed that you would see God is all of this. I am sorry that life is so hard right now and I'll continue to pray for you as I join you in waiting.

You are loved.

Susan Hill said...

"Whole parts of my heart and hope are diminishing just in the fight to hold on. At times I say to God: "You know, by the time you come through my heart is going to be so broken it may almost be too shattered to celebrate the breakthroughs." that I can relate. You're torn between hanging on because you're 'supposed' to and letting go because there's just no more energy left. Praying God lifts your heart.

Sara said...

Waiting with you friend.