Tuesday, December 09, 2008

That exciting time of waiting

I love Advent buttonIn Reaching Out Henri Nouwen asks if we can "carry the burden of reality", remain open to tragedy and suffering, and not become mentally paralyzed and depressed. He later answers in part:
...life can teach us that although the events of the day are out of our hands, they should never be out of our hearts, that instead of becoming bitter our lives can yield to the wisdom that only from the heart a creative response can come forth.
And how will that creative response come forth? Advent is teaching me this year that the waiting is an important step toward the coming forth. I think carrying the burden of reality is a moment by moment process in which I become open and keep from shutting down. Solutions are not instant. God is continually at work even in the waiting whether I recognize it or not. In whatever our situation might be, we each have our own burden of reality to bear. I'm guessing that like me, you are longing for something, waiting for resolution, hoping for healing, praying for an answer. The nature of events or facts contributing to our financial, material, or emotional welfare, or that of a loved one, may not see a sudden shift, but within the empty place of expectancy there is a story.

I think of Zachariah, an old man who had waited a long time. Perhaps his hope that he would be a father was wavering. As we read the story of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to him that his wife, Elizabeth, would bear a son, we can jump ahead to the fulfillment of the reality of his hope. We can see how close it was to him, even at the time of his reluctance to believe. There was promise in the unfolding story. "You will have joy and gladness and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord...With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." The magnitude of what was about to happen was beyond Zachariah's grasp, but in spite of his feelings, God was present in that moment.

In spite of real circumstances causing our own instinctive feelings of abandonment, discouragement, loss of hope, dullness, or impatience, etc., today in this moment, couldn't there be a real story of salvation, a story of promise, a story of hope unfolding? God is present in this moment. That makes the empty place of expectancy more like a place that is housing a gift. Within the waiting there is a story.


Blogger Sharon said...

Thanks, once again, Jennifer. While at our beach hut this weekend, inspired by your recent blog entries I'm sure, I kept singing over and over again "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" -- it mixed well with the crashing waves. I've always thought it sounded rather dirge-like. However, this time I realized that it was just reflecting a long but hope-filled waiting. It's exactly what you (and H. Nouwen!) describe ... it's the plea for advent while carrying the burden of reality!
The events of the day can cause our hearts to be "steeled" or to yield. It's truly a moment by moment choice I make -- the harsh, cold, rigidity of steel or the soft, open, flexibility of yield. A subtle shift can lead to such bleak results! Yielding to the waiting, that's what I have to choose. But your "housing a gift" description makes the invitation to wait much more ... well ... inviting!

5:58 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Sharon, thanks for enlarging on the idea of our heart's response. I was trying to remember "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" and my non-musical self somehow segued into "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" (one of my personal faves) and started doing a mix-up of the 2. Did you know that the former can be sung to the tune of the latter? Anyway I found this funky website with music and words to straighten me out. www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/c/o/m/comtlong.htm

My friend, Ellen H. has a beautiful post on what is happening in the mystery of dark hiddenness. See what she says about the Holy Spirit's work.

2:59 PM  
Blogger kathyescobar said...

as always, jenny, so beautiful. i love the nouwen quote and all of your thoughts here. you have made me "heart" advent extra this year.

sharon, nice to see your picture and it reminded me of what a beautiful and kind person you are. it's been a long time!

1:51 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...


'great to hear from you! We hope to visit The Refuge when we're in Denver . It'd be great to see you!


I'm checking out that link right now!
Thanks, my friend!

4:59 AM  

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