The Right Way to Wait

I love this girl. A topic well worth being reminded of again and again.

— By Stephanie Weinert
I heard Archbishop Chaput of Denver say in a speech several years ago that according to new studies the average American had a seven second attention span. His Excellency also remarked that thanks to MTV (fast-paced always-changing music videos) and the media craze of the past generation, we’re a society that doesn’t know how to deal with waiting. We expect our fast food fast – not five minutes later. If it takes more than the blink of an eye for Facebook to load on our internet browser, we check the connection to see what’s wrong. And those of you who woke up early to shop on Black Friday – I’m sure the worst part of the whole day was waiting in line for the checkout clerk once you had decided on your purchases. 

The bottom line: very few of us enjoy waiting. [Dictionary definition: Noun : The act of remaining inactive or stationary. Adj .: being and remaining ready and available for use].

Single people face “waiting” in a unique sense. Some wait for that sense of loneliness and isolation to be replaced with companionship and inclusion. Some wait for the year they don’t have to face the holidays alone. Some wait for the excitement of having a boyfriend or girlfriend to do things with. Some wait for their anxiety over getting older and still not being able to find a spouse to be gone forever. And most, if they are truly called to the vocation of marriage, wait with longing hearts for the joy and peace of union in the sacrament of marriage.

This is my first holiday season that I’ll celebrate as a married person. It’s caused me to reflect greatly on the blessings of the past year, and also to think about the many, many years I spent being single during the holidays, and my usual demeanor and reaction to “waiting” for a spouse.

To my chagrin I’ve realized that I often considered my single years a “holding pattern” in life not meant to be enjoyed but endured. The waiting was not tolerated in a spirit of cynicism and complaining, but it certainly was no cause for joy and celebration. Instead of living life to the fullest as a single person, in many ways I was waiting for the fullness of life to begin. In my mind, that would only happen when I entered my vocation.

Liturgical Waiting

The beginning of December issues in a preeminent season for Catholics that has a lot to do with waiting: the season of Advent. This is a time in the liturgical calendar when the Catholic Church invites all of us to embark on the important journey of preparing our hearts and our lives for union with Christ.

The Church teaches us that Advent is a time of “joyful expectation.” With our sacrifices, prayers and good deeds we await the feast of the birth of Christ, and look for His second coming, with joy and gladness in our hearts. As Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’” (CCC 524).

I’ve always known that Advent had to do with both joy and waiting. After all, the priest and altar are always decked out in rose-colored garments on the third “Gaudete” (i.e. Rejoice) Sunday of Advent, reminding us that Christ’s coming is very near and we have great cause for gladness. However I often missed the intimate connection between the “waiting” part and the “joyful” part of Advent. I never considered that the “joyful” part of the expectation was to teach us as much about our everyday lives as it was to prepare us for Christmas.

In a Wednesday General Audience speech on December 18, 2002, Pope John Paul II discussed how our participation in the liturgy of Advent and the act of “waiting” was actually “intense training” for our whole lives. His words were eye-opening for me. The Holy Father said:

“The liturgy of Advent…helps us to understand fully the value and meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It is not just about commemorating the historical event, which occurred some 2,000 years ago in a little village of Judea. Instead, it is necessary to understand that the whole of our life must be an ‘advent,’ a vigilant awaiting of the final coming of Christ. To predispose our mind to welcome the Lord who, as we say in the Creed, one day will come to judge the living and the dead, we must learn to recognize him as present in the events of daily life. Therefore, Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward him who already came, who will come, and who comes continuously.”

In other words, the joyful expectation of this short liturgical season is meant to train our hearts for the larger task at hand: waiting with joyful expectation for ALL of God’s good gifts in our lives, and especially His second coming in glory.

Waiting for a Spouse

So how does an understanding of the “waiting” process in Advent affect your desire for a spouse – a desire that is acutely felt during the holidays?

I realize that in my own life I often equated waiting for a spouse more to the waiting we do during Lent than during Advent. It was a sacrifice…it was painful…I didn’t like it…I couldn’t wait for the end. I didn’t attend Christmas parties in December with joy and gladness in my heart that I was going stag…I was in “coping” mode, hoping that maybe next year things would be different.

Clearly, my attitude was not an ideal representation of how a Christian should respond to waiting. Now that I am entering a new season of Advent with my new husband at my side and all the joy of married love, I realize how useless my anxiety was, how trivial my bad attitude during that period in my life when God allowed me to be alone. I wasted a lot of opportunities to take joy in many events, many people, and many situations during the holidays because I was concentrating so much on what I didn’t have.

Joy does not result from getting what we want. It comes from living out to the fullest what God wills for our lives in that moment. Is it more difficult to live with joy as a single person waiting to enter his or her vocation? Yes, I think so.

But the “single and waiting” time in your life will be twice blest, if you persevere with joy in your heart.

Bible Verses on “Waiting” to Meditate on During Advent:

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, and song of praise to our God.” – Psalm 40:1-3

“Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” – Psalm 37:7

“Love is patient.” – I Corinthians 13:4

“Behold, we call those happy who were steadfast.” – James 5:11

“The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you.” – 2 Peter 3:9

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” – Psalm 9:10

http://www.phasesofwomahbood.org

Stephanie Weinert is a Catholic speaker, media personality, and freelance writer. She has spoken to thousands of college students and young adults on topics relating to the Catholic faith and pursuing pure love in relationships. She hosted EWTN’s radio talk show for young adults, NEXTWAVE LIVE, for six years before leaving her radio career this year to focus on her new vocation of marriage. Stephanie and her husband, Peter, live in the Washington DC metro area. She currently works part-time from home as the marketing director for Family Life Center International: www.familylifecenter.net.

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