I have this post that I really want to write about waiting well, but maybe it's not supposed to be written because I can't get to it, or when I start it, I can't get it to make sense. Today, though, I want to write about something else that I've learned in waiting.
"Waiting well" is not the same thing as "waiting pretty". Waiting well does not mean that you have it all together, that waiting doesn't hurt, that you can keep it all together and joyfully praise God every moment of the day, and every step of the journey. I don't know when or where it happened, but somehow I got the idea along the way that embracing my cross meant that I would choose to pick it up, throw it over my shoulder, and stride confidently along my journey. I figured it'd be heavy, but so what? It's a cross, right? No, prob! I'll jog across the finish line with ease and maybe even beat a few people along the way.
Yeah, right. That only happens with theoretical crosses, just so you know.
With a real cross, you embrace it, only to realize that it is rough and full of splinters. They dig into the palms of your hands and bite into the flesh of your shoulder.
You pick it up, only to set it back down because it is so heavy. Who could carry it?
Only when you realize that you have no choice do you again embrace it and lift it, and begin the journey. There is no confident striding, only slow plodding. You can't lift it off the ground, so it is digs into your shoulder and the end drags behind you, pulling you back.
Sometimes, you fall. How could you not? Sometimes when you fall, you just have to lie there for a few minutes before you can begin to get back up.
Sometimes you stand, but you can't lift it, so you only drag it, inch by inch.
Sometimes you can't carry it all, and the only forward progress comes from those that walk with you, urging you on, and helping you carry it in any way they can.
Sometimes the only people around are the ones that don't understand and only make it harder to move forward.
And at the end of the cross? There is death. And it hurts.
Carrying your cross is brutal, and painful, and ugly. There is blood, sweat, and tears. There is fear, anger, bitterness.
To me, waiting well (or whatever your cross is, because this applies across the board) is not about whether you are strong enough to easily lift and carry your cross (here's a hint: no one's strong enough to do that). To me, waiting well is not just about the first part of Jesus' command, but also (and maybe especially) about the second part of His command:
"Take up your cross and follow me."
Waiting well is about following Him. And He was going up to Calvary to die. Any real cross we carry will lead to death, and it is extremely painful.
That is not the end. If we are able to follow Him all the way, that is not the end. That's what waiting well is about, sticking with Him in the midst of it, and He does bring new life in the end! Whether the end of our cross is the long awaited wedding day, or the birth of a child, or whatever it is. Or maybe it will be at the end of our lives. In this life, there will always be a cross, and though it leads to death to self, it also leads to new and abundant life in Him.
There is more good news. I have had times where I felt like I could barely breathe, let alone figure out how to follow Him. Sometimes waiting well doesn't mean you have to do anything. Sometimes it just means that you have to let Him know that you want to follow Him even though you can't because you're too tired or too angry or too sad or whatever. He'll take care of the rest (not magically, but eventually you get to the other side, where you can breathe and function and you realize you didn't do it yourself.)
I know this is Advent, and this post seems like more of a Lenten thought process. But for some, the holidays are so painful and the world is so joyful. I will rejoice with the Church this Sunday, but for now, I am hurting with several family members and friends. If you are hurting in the midst of these holidays, I'm praying for you! I just wish I could do more to help you carry the load.