There is one last thing that I really wanted to touch on when it comes to waiting well. It's kind of a new one for me, or at least this aspect of it. It's something that I feel that I am only beginning to understand, so I'll give you what little I've got so far on this idea. I will say this, though I have been learning it in the context of waiting, it (like many lessons) applies in a general way to so many areas.
This thing is faith.
I have heard this word so many times that it has lost meaning for me. We refer to our faith, and the faith of our fathers. We talk about being people of faith. But what does it mean to live faith? To wait with faith? In particular, how do I put faith in God, when I don't know what the outcome is supposed to be? For me, faith has meant believing that God could work miracles and make things happen. So, to apply it to my life, it meant believing that God could take where I am as a single person and bring a special someone into my life. But how do I pray with faith for that to happen, while at the same time surrendering to His will, whatever that may be in terms of time as well as in terms of whether I will meet someone and get married?
This Advent, a light finally started to peek through the darkness for me. If "Advent" means "coming", all I have to do is have faith that He is coming. That's it. I don't have to have all the answers, or to know when or how, just that He's coming. That really is it. It seems like that should be obvious when I write that out, but really, it's taken me a decade (well, three, but let's pretend that it only counts after college) to figure this little piece out.
So for the first few weeks of Advent, I focused on the fact that He is coming. In particular, last week when words like "joy" and "rejoice" seemed like obscenities in the face of what happened, I was reminded that He is coming. I may have made Christmas about snow and sparkles and trees and cookies and food and family traditions, but really Christmas is about the fact that He came, and that He is coming again. It is about the fact that He came, and that while I will never understand tragedies like that, death did not conquer and last Friday was not the end for those children. That doesn't make it any easier for their families to live without them, but it's not the end, and I hold onto that.
But also in my life, He is coming. I have also been reminded over and over of the ways that He has already been working in my life, but this Advent really has been about the joy of Him coming. How or when does not matter, but He is coming.
This brings up a question. If He is coming, what am I going to do about it? If I don't know how, then how do I prepare myself? The Gospels are full of stories of people that accepted Jesus and those that rejected Him. How do I make sure that I am one of the ones that recognized His coming with faith and accepted it, even when it's not what I expected?
If I have faith, and expect Him to work miracles, what do I do?
In my year of Bible reading (I'm 1.5-2 months behind), I was just starting to work my way through the Gospels when Advent started. The first part of the Gospels all talk about tons of Jesus' miracles. The leper who simply came up to Jesus and said, "If you will, you can heal me." And Jesus said, "I do will, be healed." Or the centurion who impressed Jesus with His faith. Or Bartimaeus that kept calling out even though Jesus did not answer at first and the disciples even tried to hush him. The paralytic that was brought in by friends and lowered through the roof, or the paralytic that had been waiting at the pool for years. How about the woman that had a hemorrhage for 12 years?
Many of them displayed great faith. Some had waited for years, and then sought out Jesus as a last resort. Others seemingly had a problem that Jesus solved pretty quickly. But some didn't have much faith. What about the disciples on the boat in the storm? They cried out that they were going to die, and Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith, but He calms the storm anyway.
Yet, with all the differences, one thing struck me as similar. People came. Jesus came to earth, and He came to their regions, but they came to Him. Some begged, some stated, some were just present, but all came to be with Him. The disciples were often rebuked for their lack of faith, but they came, in response to a call, or to His miracles, or to His teachings, but they came. Often, they stepped out in faith before they knew what Jesus was going to do, as this blogger points out. Mary didn't know what was going to happen, but with faith, she said yes (and some great thoughts here about the difference of surrendering control and acting with faith).
Last night, I was thinking about this. I went to a late Mass, and there were only 5 people there. The older priest that was celebrating the Mass often gets sidetracked in his homilies, so daily Masses with him tend to be 45 minutes (for those of you that haven't been to daily Mass, they're usually 25-30 minutes). We were in a side chapel, and we could hear the choir begin to practice for the Christmas services this weekend. Right after the words of consecration (when He comes to us in a special way), when the priest held up the host, the choir belted out, "O, come, all ye faithful..."
And this living with faith thing that had seemed so confusing about how to do it right, suddenly made sense. First, He comes. Then, we come and follow Him. Easier said than done? Absolutely. But at least I know where to start.