Lent, like its cousin, Advent, is about waiting: forty days (more or less) of preparing for the biggest celebration of the Church year. As with Advent, there is a strong element of anticipation, of longing for the joy of that celebration. For believers who live in personal relationship to Christ, this longing is not so much for an annual festivity but for its ultimate fulfillment.
We look for the SECOND coming as we commemorate the first. We ache for the FINAL resurrection as we rejoice in Christ’s. So even as we celebrate, we still wait.
I’ve been keenly aware of waiting lately. We are still looking for an actor to portray Dietrich Bonhoeffer in our company’s upcoming production of The Beams are Creaking. God has always led us to exactly the right person for a role, and we expect that this time will be no exception.
But waiting is hard, especially when the rest of the cast is assembled and has begun to rehearse. However, we wait in hope.
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.”
(I Thessalonians 4:13-14, NLT)
Any child counting down the days until Christmas can tell you that waiting is hard work. As adults, we often feel that waiting is pointless…why can’t we just get on with it?
But often the waiting is the work…it may be that more preparation and thought are needed, that more prayer is needed. The waiting may not change circumstances, but it may change us. We may develop patience, deepen our faith, discern a better way. John Milton, the famous British poet, understood this. His sonnet, “On His Blindness”, muses on the fact that God doesn’t need our work so much as our willingness. The true labor may be in gaining a right attitude. “They also serve who only stand and wait,” concludes Milton.
Watched pots never boil, they say. Clock-watching makes the minutes drag. A dreaded task can seem to last forever. But perhaps part of the task of waiting is to not focus so fiercely on the future?
We live in hope because the future is secure. We can live in the here and now, in present contentment, knowing that God has the future well in hand.
That’s a good lesson for any time or season. Practice living in the now, hope-fully.