My daughter just sent the dates when her family will be with us over the Christmas week. I can’t wait to see them. I can’t wait to decorate our tree and set up our plywood manger scene on the lawn. I can feel a sense of excitement building.
How often do you say, “I can’t wait,” and mean a sense of eagerness and longing?
We all know the other kind of waiting: slow-motion moments filled with irritation, when “I can’t wait” drives us crazy. Stewing in traffic we didn’t anticipate, or moldering in a doctor’s reception area long after the appointment was supposed to begin, or inching forward while a pokey checker struggles to find prices. It can feel like torture.
How I wait is a choice. Is there some way to transform it? Take standing in line at the store, for example. Cell phones can distract while we wait in that line. I can use my phone to read e-mail, text, visit Facebook, or Google something.
Or I can use my cell phone to sneak in some prayer. I have a few prayer apps and a bookmark for this blog. The entire Bible is available at usccb.org. I’m not self-conscious praying as I wait, because everyone else is on a cell phone too!
Another choice is to pray silently for the cashier or the strangers ahead of me in a line. Every one of them carries a burden of some sort.
I am surprising myself as I practice trying to contemplate while waiting in line. First, I notice the piped in music, and I let it go. I notice the conversations around me, but I allow them to float past.
Sometimes I close my eyes and start a short Examen. How have I waited with Christ today? I review how I treated people during the last hour. I consider what I’m experiencing right now: physically, emotionally, and mentally. Sometimes I just imagine God looking at me right now. I blink to be sure that I’m keeping up with the movement of the line. But I keep my focus inward.
Serious concentration helps me let go of the distractions. Then a few moments in line opens peaceful avenues inside. God may choose to grab this fleeting moment to provide me with some surprising insight. All of this is possible while waiting.
Before I know it, the waiting is over. I give thanks.
With my hot-headed attitude at waiting now in check, I can say that kind word to the frazzled holiday worker. I can focus on her instead of my all-important agenda.
As I ponder Advent, I think about anticipation. My waiting is full of joyful hope. It’s the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ!
I can’t wait.
Image (cropped) by David Morris under CC BY 2.0.