Monday, December 6, 2021

The Practice of Waiting


Waiting is a topic we often consider during the season of Advent. I’ve read numerous Advent meditations that talk about the importance of waiting, the need to wait, the practice of waiting as a spiritual discipline. If we faithfully practice Advent, we are brought back time and time again to the need to wait. It is part of preparing ourselves for the coming of Emmanuel each year at Christmas.

 Of course, waiting is not the favorite pastime of anyone I know. And waiting is not exclusive to Advent. We spend a lot of time waiting for things. Some might say waiting is a “necessary evil” but I wouldn’t call it that.

 I mentioned in my last blog post that I had learned some lessons from nine weeks of not being able to drive because of a broken shoulder. One of the lessons I learned, or at least became more familiar with, was waiting. I waited on the sidewalk outside my apartment most days, looking for my ride for that particular day. It gave me an opportunity to be present. I watched the trees change colors. I watched clouds in the sky. I saw different people walking down the street. I observed the work of remodeling that was happening at a building near me.

 As a child, I remember learning a rhyme about crossing the street. It began: Stop, look, and listen. Standing on the sidewalk each day, waiting for a ride, gave me the opportunity to stop, look, and listen, a practice I can do anywhere, anytime I’m waiting, if I’ll just stay awake and aware.

 There was another gift of waiting. It was a waiting that curbed impulsiveness. Because I was dependent on others to take me to the grocery store, I had to be attentive about keeping a running list of what I needed. I couldn’t simply jump in the car to pick up one or two items. It caused me to recognize how impulsive I can be. Because I had to wait, I learned to improvise or do without ingredients. Not a bad practice.

 I realized just how much time I can waste making little trips back and forth to the grocery store. I recognized that impulsivity is a barrier to imagination. When I have to wait, there is time and space for creative problem solving. That’s a practice that can apply not only to meal preparation but to other areas of life. Waiting gives space for ideas to germinate.

 As we wait during Advent, I challenge you to see this practice of waiting as creative process. Stop. Look. Listen. Improvise. Think about things differently. What can grow in you while you wait?