The Gift of Waiting / by Jeff Tacklind

One of my favorite childhood memories at Christmas time was waiting for the holiday specials to air on television.  We’d read the TV guide beforehand to figure out what night Charlie Brown Christmas was going to be on, and then make sure we were ready with a huge bowl of popcorn for that wonderfully nostalgic moment when the revolving word “special” would appear and you’d know the wait was over.  The anticipation was suddenly so worth it.

But nowadays…nowadays everything is immediately at our fingertips.  We just simply push play.  Whatever we want whenever we want it.  The pleasure is immediate.  The gratification is instant.  Yet, I find myself missing the way it was.

Something about the discomfort, even agony, of waiting seems to be a vital part of the pleasure and appreciation of consumption.  Like savoring a bite of something we’ve been longing for.  Patience causes us to linger.  To delight. It anticipates.  And in that anticipation, life becomes richer. Deeper.  More meaningful.

 But impatience just shovels it down…hardly tasting what it consumes.  

 And we are an impatient people.  

 We are driven by the need for immediacy, and technology has willingly complied.  Nowadays we wait for almost nothing.  You’d think we’d all be in a state of bliss.  But, the truth is, the joy of efficiency is a chimera.  It is an illusion…and a dangerous one, at that. Because immediacy is no cure for impatience.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Immediacy breeds impatience.  It erodes our tolerance for waiting for anything at all.  It dulls our senses, without providing any of the relief we crave.

I remember the comedian, Dane Cook, once joking that in the future everything will be instant, but that the line at the DMV will still take 7 seconds.  And I’m starting to think he’s right.  Not just about the duration, but the implied agony of having to wait those 7 seconds.  I predict that in the future, we will still be figuring out ways around that wait time. And we will still be frantically grasping for a sense of peace always just out of reach, always one update or upgrade away.  Always destroyed by the slightest inconvenience.

 Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not anti-technology.  I find plenty of satisfaction in its conveniences. I love being able to watch whatever I want on Netflix, whenever I want to watch it.  But I’m noticing more and more that when things become instantaneously available, they lose their potency.  Our senses become unavoidably dulled by binge watching.  

 Which is why, during advent, we are reminded of the gift of waiting.  Our hope is delayed, and for good reason.  We are awaiting the fulfilling of a great promise.  That all things will be made new.  A new heaven and a new earth.  The end of suffering, weeping, injustice.

 Richard Rohr writes, “The theological virtue of hope is the patient and trustful willingness to live without closure, without resolution, and still be content and even happy because our Satisfaction is now at another level, and our Source is beyond ourselves.”

 But that trustful willingness is not without vision.  It is anchored on an even greater hope.  An even greater source.  A Source, with a capital S.  And we wait with patience because the good news is growing.  It is stretching further and further with greater inclusiveness.

 Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

 As we prepare for Advent, we practice waiting patiently.  Not for God, but with God.  God’s patient love tarries, so that none would perish.  And as we wait, our love grows.  As we practice patience, our lives become deeper.  Richer.  We savor the goodness now, and, with growing anticipation, we prepare for the fullness that is worth waiting for.