November 22, 2001

The gift of waiting (a pre-advent reflection)

In this very fast-paced life we all live, waiting is a luxury and, to most, a necessary but unwanted evil. Most of us, I in particular, do not like to wait nor to be kept waiting. Understandably, because all of us are preoccupied with our own concerns--concerns that take time and demand from us undivided attention--and waiting disrupts the order and system that we, invariably, must develop so that we may address these concerns. Yet, we wait everyday of our lives--even if we don't like it.

We waited, as children, to grow up, to study, to go to college, to finish a degree, to work, to become professionals, to be successful. We wait in line for meals, for rides, for tickets to a show or a movie, for a friend to call or show up; we wait in line to receive God's body and blood at communion; we wait at airports or seaports to send off loved ones or to welcome them home. We wait for birthdays and vacations and weekends. We wait for the right one to come along.

We cannot remove all the waiting in our lives. It is part of who we are; it is integrally woven into the tapestry of living, the "fabric in which the threads are woven that tell the story of our lives."But to a lot of us, waiting is unnatural. It conflicts with the all-too human passion and zest for life. Especially in this day and age when communication is faster than sound--text messages get across greater distances faster than the sound of the spoken word--life has become faster and time all the more important.

Michael Jordan's Nike ads tell us to "just do it"; don't wait. That much-maligned movie "The Dead Poet's Society" gave us the unforgettable mantra--to some, a life motto--"carpe diem" (seize the day); do not wait, do it now. In other more pedestrian fashions, the pre-occupation is with doing things now--life is short; eat, drink, party for tomorrow you may die. Fr. Bernas loves to paraphrase an unnamed Saint who supposedly asked God to "give me patience. . . . but please give it to me right now."

All this insistence on not waiting, on doing things faster or doing things now and not tomorrow creates in us unwanted character traits that are, initially, imperceptible but which, eventually, surface. The preoccupation with "just do it" and "carpe diem", taken the wrong way, becomes license for unbridled and irresponsible freedom and action--premarital sex and extra-marital affairs, lack of commitment and absence of perserverance in commitments; they create an overriding sense of cynicism and distrust and forces us to rely on ourselves more and more. The rush to "just do it" and the "carpe diem" mentality creates in us a refusal to trust vows and promises, renders us cynical of duty and responsibility, fosters distrust of any anchors that we may drop in the currents and tides of our life that will force us to stop. . . and wait.

For me, the refusal to wait makes me unable to love and love fully. Waiting means waiting for someone else. It means giving up something that is precious to me in this day and age, my time, for someone else; resisting the all-too human urge to do it myself. And for me, it is the first sign of love.Anyone who has ever loved knows how it is to wait. Anyone who has ever loved knows how much waiting goes into loving, how much waiting is important for love to grow, to flourish, to thrive.

I do not know why love requires so much waiting. It is a mystery to me also. Why must I wait for my loved one? We might as well ask why it takes so long for a seed to become a tree or for coal to become a diamond.

All I do know is that a love that is instantly accessible and immediately gratifying is a love that is, ultimately shallow, puerile, doubtful and fleeting. All I do know is that a love that is subject of patient and expectant waiting is a love that has grown and will continue to grow. For it is a love that takes root in the the nourishment of experience, of shared mysteries, of secret and not-so secret joys, of companionship, of honesty, sincerity, candor and trust. As a seed takes time to become a tree, so too does love take time to grow, flourish and thrive.

That is why waiting is the start of loving.

If we truly love the other, then we must gift that person with the gift of waiting. It is a most difficult thing to do but it is also the truest test of the depth and sincerity of our love for each other.

So, as we approach Advent and ultimately Christmas. . . we wait for OUR Loved One, our Lord Jesus Christ, the radical God of our lives. We wait twelve months, 52 weeks, 365 days to celebrate one Holy day--the day the King of our lives is born. We wait for Him because we love Him. We wait for Him because we know He is the ONE, the ONLY ONE for us. We wait because we want to give to Him the gift of our time expended into our lives--lives that we hope will be pleasing to His eyes. We wait for Him because we recognize that He has to, first, take root in our hearts, in our lives, in all that we are before He comes; otherwise, His coming will be as un-extraordinary as the measures of instant gratification we take everyday of our lives. We wait for Him because, after all, He has waited for us for ALL time.

[Lord, I pray, as I wait for you to come, that my life shall be the fruitful product of a loving and productive waiting; I offer to you my gift of time as I await your coming--and I spend that time, as I wait, in fashioning my life and my heart to create a life and a son that is pleasing to you.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Every moment that we do not give to God is a moment that we deny ourselves the gift of Him. God waits, patiently, for us; He has waited for ALL time--from the moment of creation, He already knew our name in His divine plan. Yet, He waits for us to realize that He waits for us. During those times when we are so intent with doing what we think is His will on Earth, He finds it difficult to sit and wait for us--but still He does.

-- how can you write so beautifully? It's as if I'm reading my thoughts...

Before I came to law school, I was afraid that I may start to "budget" my time for Him -- certainly something I would not want. Giving more time to my worldly meaningless affairs is the last thing I need.

My sincerest gratitude for making me remember :)

by the way, congratulations sir!