Waiting takes on so many forms in life

Throughout our lives we spend a lot of our time waiting. Time SPENT waiting can sometimes seem a waste of time or an inefficient use of it - spent doing nothing but waiting takes many hours of our lives when added up. Such waiting can take the form of torturous or eager and excited anticipation such as waiting for someone’s arrival or return at an airport, waiting in company or waiting alone, waiting in silence, in anticipation; waiting in a particular location such a church can give rise to  totally different moods and contexts – i.e., one’s mood of excitement waiting for the bride to arrive, or in contrast, the feelings going through you as you wait for a hearse.

On a typical social evening, time is punctuated by different waiting times. Waiting to be seated, waiting for one’s order to be taken, waiting to be served, waiting for the next course, waiting for someone else to finish eating, waiting for someone to stop talking so that we can start and get our say, and provide a better anecdote or a final say on the matter. Then there is the waiting to pay the bill, waiting for the credit card to be validated, waiting for someone who has gone to the bathroom, waiting to leave, waiting for someone to get ready, or waiting in traffic. On other occasions we are left waiting in a doctor’s surgery or at a dentist for a tooth extraction, where the waiting makes the imagination wander to exaggerated heights, or we are awaiting for a return call or text (happy 20th birthday text messaging SMS!) or the results of an exam, NCT etc

These we get used to over time. We learn as children to wait our turn, to develop patience! A child waits for Christmas or a birthday party, an outing or a holiday, the end of a school day, week or term. When relatives call you realise that you are no longer the centre of attention, that the conversation doesn’t really interest you unless it is about you! You must wait silently and pateintly until spoken to. I wonder if any studies have been done on the patience levels among older and younger siblings  – that as adults are we patient in proportion to where we came in the pecking order. Or as the youngest did we get our way more, or did we have to give in more?
‘Wait your turn’ is all very well but what if there is only one bathroom? I can’t wait can be said sardonically or enthusiastically, can take on different emphasis and meaning if you’re leaving in the car for a family member to go to Mass, or when a child says it at the back of car, you had better pull over fast!

Perhaps if you have gone to an unenjoyable movie, that was overhyped - you really get tired of it and ‘cannot wait’ for it to end.

Then when waiting is over, there is the relief or excitement that may follow.

What immediately follows?

Living in the present moment, forgetting what you have sacrificed, given up, forgetting time, just being and ‘enjoying the moment’ be it pleasant and relaxed company after a meal, scenery, solitude, entertainment, whatever it may be  - just a warm feeling of not wanting the moment to end. These are tasters of heavenly bliss, where time doesn’t matter. They may come unexpectedly. We forget about our cares and worries, even about what we want. And then they’re gone, and we want them back. We want to re-live the experience, or strive to re-create them, all these fleeting moments. It’s why we wait so much on so many occasions. It is why things are ‘worth the wait’, why we go to great lengths and sacrifice convenience and comfort at airports or lines of traffic, because we want a moment or moments like we had before. 
But we are realistic, and often moments or situations fail to live up to the promise. Maybe we just tried too hard. These times we have striven for are sometimes called a feeling of nirvana, or are called ‘heavenly’ – and explain in part the popularity of the feelings people associate with ‘retail therapy’ or such things as a beauty treatment or a massage. Chemically they can be explained by the release of ‘feel-good hormones’ like serotonin or dopamine in the brain. There is a sense of well-being or togetherness or ‘actualisation’. But why won’t they last - these moments of inner satisfaction or restfulness or, the latest buzz word, ‘mindfulness’? We want them to last forever for ourselves. We even want to share these feelings with others. These all point to what heaven must be like.

Advent teaches us that that all of life is, in fact,  a preparation – and not a case of living passively, in idleness, waiting to die, like some people do, or waiting anxiously for release from pain or waiting for answers.

Our individual and communal waiting therefore must be something commemorated and honoured more, and that is why Advent is so important – the spiritual significance of Christmas is never lost on us if we make the effort to celebrate Advent really well – in anticipation, and in some kind of Lent-like restraint before ‘letting loose’, as it were, in all the excitement that is so wonderful. We can truly celebrate the feast after the fast.
Therefore we realise that there is a lot more to life than passivity. There are, it is said, two kinds of people – those for who life happens to them; and those who happen to life. We are called to be the latter.

And while it is crucial to pray more deeply and well in silence and reflection in the Advent season in anticipation of Christ’s birth re-commemorated, we are called from solitude to service.
Advent is the season of waiting in joyful hope! But it is an important reminder that a life of service to others is in fact purposeful waiting. We must all wait some time longer for the Lord to return to take us with Him to His Father’s house. But in the meantime let us at last begin to live – to TRULY LIVE and to LIVE TRULY in joyful service of one another.

What are you and I waiting for?!

No comments:

Post a Comment