On Advent waiting: Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton
We know Advent is a season of waiting but what if you feel like you've been waiting for a long time? We've been waiting for the pandemic to be over. We've been waiting to "go back to normal."
But ultimately, and for 2,000 years, we've been waiting for Christ to return. To reconcile all things. To make everything right.
What if we reframed the act of waiting — as a gift?
There is a refining that happens when we wait. A transformation of our spirit. When we wait, we prepare. We gain experience. And there is a hope, that in that transformation, God's will becomes our will.
We have been given this opportunity as a gift, a gift for the past two years — and now as we wait during Advent and ultimately as we wait for Christ's second coming.
Writer and theologian G.K. Chesterton appreciated how waiting could be a gift. To Chesterton, waiting opened possibility:
"Around every corner is another gift waiting to surprise us, and it will surprise us if we can achieve control over our natural tendencies to make comparisons (to things that are better rather than things that are worse), to take things for granted... and to feel entitled!"
Have we grown so entitled that we no longer see the gift of waiting and of life ready to surprise us? Chesterton's words ring true as we have compared now, to B.C., "before COVID-19."
We reflect longingly back to 2019 as our glory days. We don't appreciate now for what it is. Now is good. It can be beautiful if we let it surprise us.
I remember when I was younger, I always thought I would be happy when I graduated from college, when I found a husband, when I had my own home.
These are good and happy events, and it is good to have goals to work toward, but I needed to learn to be content and happy in the moment each day. When we learn this, God's will takes over our desires.
Advent is the season of waiting. G.K. Chesterton wrote, "The aim of life is appreciation; There is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them."
I think of this year's supply chain shortages. Some say these issues threaten Christmas celebrations. Do they really? Or do they refine us? Do they remind us what Christmas is truly about? Like Chesterton writes, why do we need more if we don't even appreciate what we already have?
It is not about the gifts and wondering if the cargo ships will be unloaded on time, if the semitrucks will deliver all the gifts you wanted to make Christmas perfect. It can be about being more thoughtful about what we consume and how much of it.
Do we buy and consume with intentionality? Has Christmas become more about the gifts and less about Jesus?
Waiting is the gift. It is a time to change our hearts. While waiting, God can take something that is difficult and use it to shape us into the person he created us to be. And we can get to know him better.
In St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians, he writes, "I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me" (Phil 4:12-13).
Waiting helps us understand what it is like to be content with what we have. It means learning to appreciate what we do have instead of stewing over what we do not.
It will never be 2019 again. Do we want things and comfortability? Or do we want Jesus? Do we want the saving transforming grace of our relationship with the Savior?
This makes me think of the words of one of Chesterton's contemporaries, C. S. Lewis, who wrote:
"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
I love the tension of being content in our circumstance but not so easily pleased that we fail to recognize the glory that God is offering us. Isn't this what we do when we fail to see waiting as a gift?
What are we waiting for? Christmas? A turkey, tree and a holiday movie? Are we waiting for another new normal? Or the pandemic to be over?
Or are we waiting for Christ? To finally be reconciled to our God? To know fully this God who we worship? And then too, we will be fully known.
I am content to wait for Jesus.
By Shemaiah Gonzalez, Catholic News Service