“Oh, just you wait….”
Think for a moment about these two ways of being asked to “wait.” The first is a command, an imperative said with the force to make us stop where we are. The second is an invitation, perhaps said with a slight twinkle of joyous anticipation in the eyes of the speaker, signaling excitement about what is coming next.
I wonder how many times you’ve heard the command to “WAIT!” and it felt like good news?
Never, right? Yeah, me neither.
When we’re told to wait, it’s, at best, because something we want to come is still not here yet—and a hope we have is, as yet, still deferred. Or, we’re told to wait because something hard we’re going through is still not over—some pain we’re experiencing is still not at its end. So, in either case—the absence of the good, or the presence of the bad—the command to wait holds us in a place we would otherwise choose not to be. And it says: “Stay here. Endure. The change you want is still some time off.”
No wonder Tom Petty said that “waiting is the hardest part.”
And if waiting has always been hard, it’s particularly hard in our day. We live in a cultural moment that seeks to eradicate all waiting. With a touch of a button, we can have groceries immediately brought to our doorstep on “instacart,” while simultaneously sharing vivid portraits of a recent family outing with friends on “instagram.” Hundreds of tasks which used to take us long periods time now happen with little-to-no waiting. Remember when you had to watch your favorite TV show on a set day and time? Or had to look at a map and write down directions to get anywhere? Or had to write a check, and put it in an envelope, to pay a bill?
We among all people ask: What could be good about waiting?
I say all this because, in Advent, we are told to wait. In Advent, we are asked to enter into the story of Israel, as they await the coming of their deliverer, the Messiah: How long, how long, O Lord? they cry out. And as we enter into their story, we find it’s not their story only. We find that we are waiting too—for the Messiah’s second coming, and for his deliverance in our day, in our lives—for promises to finally be fulfilled, and for pain to finally come to an end—for all our brokenness to be healed, for our all sin to be redeemed, for all our wounds to be bound up, and for all causes of our harm to be put away. So, we too cry out, How long, how long, O Lord?
This doesn’t feel good. This is hard. This is not what we would choose if we could.
So—how can any of this be good news?
Only one way, I think. The only way waiting can be transformed in a way that is full of joy, that has anticipation, that is hopeful and not just drudgery or sorrow, is if the character of the one we are waiting for—or, who is asking us to wait, in this case—is trustworthy. For when we believe—when we trust—the one asking, we can hope that what we’re waiting for will be worth the wait—that somehow, by some miracle, the waiting will not merely be the absence of some change we want, but the working of some change that we did not even know to hope for—a good that we could not even believe was possible.
Beloved of God, hear good news of Advent. The coming one, the one who asks us to wait, is trustworthy.
And he is more than able to turn our all our “WAIT!” into “Oh, just you wait….”