Waiting has been a theme for me, my community and the world lately. We're waiting for a vaccine that might make life more recognisable for us. We're waiting for restrictions to end; we're waiting to see those we love or to pop round our friends' houses are to hug literally anybody who isn't part of our household.
This week in my house, we were waiting for a plumber to come and fix our kitchen sink. After a sudden and complete blockage and nine days of washing up in the (carefully sanitized) bathtub, that plumber arrived with something like the glory of Christ. There was fanfare and hoopla and we couldn't stop telling each other (and other people) the plumber has finally come!
It's funny (no, it is, we're laughing at ourselves), but those days of struggling with piles of dishes and (more importantly) the stress of things not working right, of waiting for the person we knew could fix our problem but not knowing quite when he would come (we have no less than four cancellations) made Advent very, viscerally real for our household.
Waiting is hard. It is a long, weary discipline and the constant temptation is to just give up, because at least that puts an end to it. Despair—even dish-related despair, but certainly the larger, more audacious sorts of hopes we might relinquish—is deadly, but dead things don't feel pain. We'd far rather deaden our sense of what is wrong, kill off that piece of us that longs for better, than sit in the reality that we want and need real change, but we can't actually make it happen and we don't know when it will.
But waiting is immensely important. It's by refusing to deaden that sense of what is wrong that we remind each other to hold onto ourselves. It's by embracing that powerless but deeply emotional weight of not yet that we grow into a real understand of both what is and what should be. Waiting forms us, it shapes us into people who are not willing to accept the things that are wrong just because we don't have an immediate fix.
And waiting reminds us that we're not in this alone. We're waiting for someone. We're expecting rescue. Waiting reminds us of who we are, not just as people who won't settle for bad, nor just as people with something to lose—but as people with someone to wait for.
In some hard-to-define way, waiting makes us ready. When my sink finally started working again, I had a special and deep appreciation for the holy practice of washing up while standing on my feet. I recognised what good things I had, and why they mattered. And that was just . . . a sink. God's timing is something we don't understand, and the not yet of waiting can be horribly painful. But, whatever other reasons God may have for the whens and the hows of his arrival, we know that our hard discipline of waiting makes us people who are able to receive him, people who value the making-right of things that he brings, and people who are ready to join in his work of making our world good again.
Let's wait together.
Image: Portrait of the Artist's Mother by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1897