By Mary Dufresne | Staff Writer
When we hear the word “wait,” we have a tendency to squirm in our seats, to sigh a reluctant “okay,” sulk, or even scream “Nooooo!” and fall down in agony. We have grown used to viewing waiting as stagnant waters or as a type of dreaded suffering. When we are asked to wait, our hearts sink. An ache, a longing is opened up and stretched out. We are left with a space that seeks to be filled. What relief to be found if only we could simply skip the period of waiting, right?
Wrong. This period of waiting is necessary. In the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—and that it may take a very long time.”
Reflect on the waiting of Our Lady. The archangel came and relayed God’s proposal to which Mary accepted. She was not given any further instruction, yet she was content. Mary pondered the proposal in her heart as she waited. She trusted that the Lord would act in His own time. She did not ask for details of how it would happen or signs to be sure that this was God’s will. Rather, she allowed her faith in the Lord to be stretched. “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45) She is blessed because she did not lose heart when God placed her in a time of preparation and waiting. This period of stretching and preparation for Mary would only bring greater glory to God when His promise to her was fulfilled. Mary was faithful despite the unknown.
The unknown is one of the main factors that causes waiting to be so uncomfortable. Perhaps if we knew exactly how things might play out after the waiting, the period might not be so painful. This is the very factor that strengthens us in the periods of waiting. It is the waiting that tests our endurance. St. Paul states it well when writing to the Romans: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith…we boast in the hope of the glory of God…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5) There is hope! This is what will pull us through, along with the consolation that there is purpose to the waiting. The Lord does not bring us to a time of waiting for us to be put to shame.
How ought we wait? Patiently, joyfully, and graciously. Seek where the Lord is present in the waiting. We often feel the Lord has abandoned us to a time of waiting. All the contrary, He has placed us in the time of waiting so that He might pull us closer to Himself. Take heart and rejoice! If you are waiting, you are in good company. Many of the greatest saints and biblical characters went through hard periods of waiting and are figures of hope, revealing that the waiting does not end in misery. So again, I say rejoice! The Lord is preparing you for something beyond all of your many detailed plans. Be gracious. This period of waiting is a gift. He is blessing you with the time to prepare your heart for whatever is ahead. If you do not know what that entails, that is even better. The unknown graces you with the opportunity for your faith to be stretched and strengthened like Mary.
As you wait in what seems like an endless desert, just as Aslan told Lucy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, “Courage, dear heart” and rejoice in the stillness. My dad once told me that “even the desert has flowers.” There is always joy to be found, even in the waiting. Embrace the ache, the unresolved feeling, the longing. In the embrace of this emptiness, we can find greater union with Christ in His longings for communion with all souls.
During this Advent season, let us walk with hope-filled anticipation and joy in our hearts, that we might have courage and faith in knowing the Lord fulfills His every promise.
“Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.” -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin