Waiting and arrivals

“Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life”
Simone Weil

boucicaut-meister
(Illuminated manuscript from the Book of Hours, the Annunciation 1410)

We have entered a new season within our faith…
Those seasonal cycles of the Church.
For we have now entered the season of waiting…
Otherwise known as Advent.
Taken from the Greek word, parousia, meaning arrival.

As in we are waiting for an arrival.

Yet do we not seem to spend our lives waiting?

Waiting on things to take place, to happen, to hurry up, to change, to come or to go….

However Father Henri Nouwen, in his essay Waiting For God, reminds us that
“for many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go.
And people do not like such a place.
They want to get out of it by doing something.”

So waiting seems to be something we are relegated to suffer.

But Father Nouwen continues…
“Most of us think of waiting as something very passive, a hopeless state
determined by events totally out of our hands.”

“But there is none this passivity in scripture.
Those who are waiting are waiting very actively.”

“Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction
that somethings happening where you are and that you want to be present to it.
A waitng person is someone who is present to the moment, who believes that this moment is the moment.”

“A waiting person is a patient person.

The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and to live the situation
out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.
Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and
therefore want to go elsewhere.

“Waiting, then is not passive.”

“To wait open-endedly is an enormous attitude toward life.”

So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that
God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear.
The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment,
trusting that new things will happen to us,
new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction.

“That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.”

And so we begin to wait…
actively and radically waiting….

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.
You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

James 5:7-8

(Father Henri Nouwen’s words taken from Watch for the Light
Readings for Advent and Christmas
/ Plough Publishing House

Are you listening

Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning,
that without listening speaking no longer heals,
that without distance closeness cannot cure.

Henri Nouwen

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(sheep sit along a hill near Teileann as two look away, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The precursor
The forerunner
The messenger
The prophet
The announcer

The mission always the same…
To proclaim
To pave the path
To announce
To herald

The message…
The story
the prophecy
The declaration
The Word

The coming of…
Hope
Redemption
Salvation
Life…

All for you…

As in…
Your Hope
Your redemption
Your Salvation
Your life…

So are you listening?
Or have you turned your back, your head, your heart…closing your ears…
like so many who have gone before you…
refusing to listen and refusing to claim what is rightfully yours…

“They refused to listen, And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; And You did not forsake them.
Nehemiah 9:17

Life’s unexpected surprises

Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.
Henri Nouwen

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(perusing the soon to be blooming shrubs when I notice a little visitor / Julie Cook / 2014)

Perhaps this is a bit of an odd assessment by Father Nouwen. . .his thought being that our expecting a surprise being the only way in which we may “see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us.”

How is one to expect a surprise?!
How is one expected to expect the unexpected?
Is not the whole point of a surprise just that. . .a surprise?
A surprise is unexpected and indeed a surprise, that’s how it works right?
We don’t know it’s coming.
We’re caught off guard.
Blind sided.

And yet perhaps that is the gist of Father Nouwen’s assessment—that we should always be prepared for the unexpected.
Meaning, we shouldn’t exactly start walking around nervously looking over our shoulder 24 / 7, nor should we be living in a constant state of paranoia. . .but rather, we should be living with the knowledgable of the fact that life is constantly full of surprises and moments that are truly not expected nor planned. . .some of which are not even welcomed.

Surprises and the unexpected are just a few of the multi colored threads and cords which bind themselves to those events of our lives which are indeed well thought out, planned, and expected. We have control over one part of life’s woven fabric. . .not so much on the other half—Yet it is both pieces of cloth which make us whole.

It is therefore the wise individual who can wear these two fabrics as one. The one who can take the cloth of expectations and plans, the cloth of control and preparations and knit it to the cloth of surprises, the unexpected, the curveballs, the bombshells. . .knowing that both sides of this fabric is what makes us who we are.

The joys and the sorrows, the seen and the unseen, the planned and the surprises are those very threads which intertwine, weaving the magic of the development of who we actually are. Simply put, we must not live in fear of the unseen and unexpected happenings because like it or not, they will come. They will happen, and as Life has it, when we least expect them and are least prepared. There will indeed be the days of “I did not see that coming. . .”

And yet what Father Nouwen is merely stating is that we should simply acknowledge these occurrences within our daily lives. The unexpected should, simply put, be expected. This acknowledgment will allow us to leave our hearts open— as such occurrences of Life are part of the shared experience of our very humanity. The good, the bad, the happy, the sad all go in to making, forming and moulding each one of us as an individual— and in the end, when it is all said and done, we will truly be the better for it all. Is this not how understanding and empathy are forged? Is it not these shared experiences, be they good or bad, that lead to making us more human, more kind, more sympathetic, more concerned. . .?

All of which is forged and woven in the daily furnace and loom of what we call Life. . .