The Waiting Game

by Janna McClain

“The thing I love about a spreadsheet is…” Charlie wouldn’t let me finish my sentence. He was in stitches, not believing that I was about to extol the praises of Microsoft Excel. But it’s true. I love spreadsheets, just as I love flowcharts and schedules and 5 year plans.

As a 3 on the enneagram, I am motivated by a need to achieve. I thrive on making goals and accomplishing them. So when our house caught fire on Thanksgiving, my brain immediately went into “fix” mode. Organizing, listing, investing tremendous mental energy to creating an insane series of mental flowcharts. If… then…. No matter what the situation my response will be the proper one.

The following Sunday we lit a candle for hope, ushering in Advent, the season of hopeful expectancy. In Christian tradition this is the time when we wait. Not the time when we fix.

I really hate waiting, mainly because when waiting I feel like I am not in control. I mean, there has to be something I can do, right?

In his sermon Sunday, Father Colin brought up the spiritual imagery of God on the mountain top. So much of the time we visualize ourselves as journeyers up the mountain, striving to reach God. But in the Christian tradition we don’t ascend the mountain. God descends to us. Therefore, our job is to wait.

Have I mentioned how much I hate waiting?

This is what Henri Nouwen says in response to my fears about waiting:

“Waiting is active. Most of us think of waiting as something very passive, a hopeless state determined by events totally out of our hands… But there is none of this passivity in scripture. Those who are waiting are waiting very actively. They know that what they are waiting for is growing from the ground on which they are standing… Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it…

Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is a waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting, but it is awaiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps. Waiting for God is an active, alert–yes, joyful– waiting. As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when he comes.”

The good thing about being a Christian is that we do not wait in fear. We wait in hope.  And by hope we don’t mean “wish”. We mean “trust”.

wish that I will get to rebuild or buy a house that is an improvement over the one I lost.
trust that no matter what the outcome, God will provide and sustain my family.

wish that in spite of the time I have taken off of work, the crazy holiday schedule interruptions, and the work computer that was destroyed in the fire, I will be able to work hard enough to score a “5” on my observation next week and that my students will do well on their test scores, showing that I have “added value” to their education.
trust that God values me because I am God’s child, not because of my accomplishments.

I wish that my response to the stress will be appropriate and that others will view me as a “good” person.
trust that God is my judge.

wish that I will be ale to juggle it all now, continuing to “improve” in my personal, spiritual, and physical goals in the midst of chaos.
trust that God has begun a good work in me and will be faithful to complete it.

wish  that everything was fixed.
trust that God is working through, and can be found in, this brokenness.

Christian hope is open-ended. Regardless of the outcome we continue to trust.

Christian hope is active–In waiting, I am not paralyzed. I am present, watching, hearing what god has to speak to me RIGHT NOW.

Yesterday I was running errands after school, trying to check emails and voicemails and Facebook messages, driving and striving to get to the next place, trying so hard not to disappoint anyone. There was a stalled car at the corner of Academy and Main that was blocking traffic. “$%^&!” I muttered under my breath, then glanced over to see that sign in front of St. Paul’s that I have driven past and ignored so many times: “Chapel Open for Prayer.” I pulled into the parking lot and climbed up to that familiar red door. Once inside the chapel I could not stop the tears. At first they were tears of frustration, fear, and anger. But soon they were replaced with tears of joy and peace.

Dear God,  I will wait and trust in You. Thank You for your promises that hold me steady in a sea of confusion.

*Janna McClain lives in Murfreesboro, TN in the Diocese of Tennessee. She and her husband Charlie (our other guest blogger) have two beautiful, brilliant children and are members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

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