Advent is a season of waiting.
I like to think of waiting as a spiritual practice because it tends to be one of those things that we struggle with accepting and doing. Years ago I had an eye-opening experience regarding waiting. My daughter had twice weekly appointments, which for me involved a lot of driving and a lot of waiting. The waiting room was a revolving door of parents and kids and I got to observe many different styles of waiting.
There were the parents who had other kids to entertain so they were in the toy corner managing play time (I didn’t need to do that). There were parents who dropped their child off and went to run errands (I didn’t have anywhere to go). There were the parents who chatted loudly on their cell phones (annoying). There were parents who, through sheer necessity, took that hour-long opportunity to nap (no idea how they did that).
None of these styles of waiting fit me so I tried other things. I brought a book but it was too hard to read with all the noise. I tried to listen to podcasts on my headphones, but I liked to listen to podcasts while walking instead of sitting. I would text friends, but that didn’t take up an hour. I finally brought some needlework with me to keep my hands busy and my attention focused.
One day a new woman appeared in the waiting room. At the top of the hour her cell phone rang out with a loud, clear tone and she unfurled a mat, knelt on it, and began to pray. In the midst of the kid noise, cell phone chatter, snow boots and winter jackets tumbling out of cubbies, and the revolving door chaos of that waiting room this woman prayed. She didn’t need a sanctuary, a special candle, a sabbath day – the waiting room became a prayer room.
My mind lit up with the possibility of a new kind of waiting that she modeled for me and my twice weekly waiting time changed after that day. I decided that I too could pray in that space, in my head and in my heart, because prayer existed in the midst of waiting and in the midst of appointments, carpools, grocery lists, medical forms, and lost mittens. I started to pray for the other parents in that room. I prayed for their kids working on PT or OT skills to help their bodies and brains. I prayed for the staff who challenged and were cheerleading kids all day long.
I began to look forward to my waiting room time knowing that that time prayer and reflection was just waiting for me to embrace it, just like God is always there, ready to shower us with grace. And I began to see that my waiting room/prayer room time affected the rest of my day as I moved into helping with homework, dinner prep, dog walks, and bedtime routines. My new way of waiting changed me.
How will you wait during Advent? How might waiting change you this season?
May your waiting be a blessing to all your days.
In Peace, Pastor Ruth