The lives we live are seldom linear. From our under-the-sun perspective it appears that way. We gawk at the sunrise, new and utterly unique every morning. We robe up and stretch into the new day. Breakfast if there’s time, coffee (whether there’s time or not!), perhaps a shower and dress, left sock first, as always. NPR for the commute and, despite the high degree of concentration required to drive among others like us, we drift into the spongy nether-regions of our brains to take up the reins of our desk. Our patterns and habits of life follow apace until, at day’s end, we once again crash ourselves into the beautiful oblivion of forgetful sleep. 

And it is good. Dull perhaps. Tedious at times. Burdensome at others. But, good all the same. In the white-noise of our days, we can be ill prepared to meet interruptions, whether they be monsters, men, or maidens, let alone mystery. Auto-pilot is a great blessing for the long haul, but rarely is it advantageous in the quick adaptation required to tear away from the safety of routines into the immediacy of surprise, shock, even survival.

There is great blessing in our hope for better tomorrows, fulfillment of promises made, or just something to look forward to. What we struggle to avoid is that moment when we stop looking for anything at all. But, if Advent teaches anything it is that, the in-breaking of God into our lives is all the more remarkable when we’ve allowed our lives to become an unremarkable ooze of sameness. One in which we no longer care to look. Sometimes God seems to prefer it this way.

By the time Jesus showed up on the Palestinian horizon, the people of Israel had long since surrendered the idea that Messiah would be coming anytime soon. They went about their daily business apace, oblivious to the miracle of who walked among them, who shared in their meals, and even healed their sick. Despite the obvious, so many refused to see, or simply shrugged their shoulders in disinterest.

Regardless of the frequency with which it appears, I have never grown appreciably better at motoring through the rough waters of life. One can read all they like in preparation for all eventualities, mentally formulate all possible outcomes, muscle through every scenario. But, at the end, preparation lets us down preferring instead the more readily available responses of shock, pain or panic.

One can forgive the nation of Israel for their spiritual acedia. It had been many, many years of prophetic silence in the face of the harshest conquerors. Let’s be honest, we’re not much different. We too await the touch of God in the middle of our lives’ toughest circumstances, a touch all too long in coming.

Through the dual benefit of years and much error, I am learning the benefits of holy waiting. But waiting that doesn’t devolve into spiritual stasis; when I no longer bother looking, expecting, hoping. Instead, I struggle against my own spiritual lethargy during these Advent days, which literally hum with holy possibility.

This Advent season, let us, like Simeon, Anna, John the Baptist, and scattered others, humbly await the new wine while grooming our wineskins to contain it. In the midst of our daily tedium, let us learn to see the incoming God.

And let us be glad.

waiting

Arrivals

The soup is better having room to steep

in the deeper time of its own goodness.

Many things unite in one great thing.

We learn hunger.

 

The ground, now patched and sown together

with summer’s glowing refuse, is somehow brighter –

having taken its time.

We learn beauty.

 

Her pleasure, no fait accompli, 

but in a reverence for slow heights.

Climb slowly this peak.

We learn desire.

 

Her tiny immensity, a sacred squalor, protrudes

nose first, dark to light, damp and cold –

one last hurrah of anonymity before donning

the first breaths of vulnerability.

We learn awe.

 

Pulled nose first into the warmth

of kitchen bread, newly plump and rising to greet us

square in tongue and tonsil, teasing

and teaching the crust-browned life.

We learn perfection.

 

Shoes, worn and well-gravelled, grind away

at the miles. A distance made less with repetition –

repetition of repeated renewals of the long

overcoming of road.

We learn perseverance.

 

And, in all of it remains the best of all our waiting.

One arrives, caught in the minutiae of the cosmic unseen.

Here to surprise our own expectations.

Come to convince us of lost remembrances.

The one great beauty in our catalogue of fear.

We learn salvation.

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Robert Alan Rife

Robert Rife, M.A., minister of worship and music for Yakima Covenant Church (formerly Westminster Presbyterian) in Yakima, Washington, is a self-proclaimed book-nerd-word-herder, multi-instrumentalist (including Highland Bagpipes!), singer-songwriter, studio musician, choral director, poet, and liturgist. He maintains two personal blogs: Innerwoven and Robslitbits. He also blogs at Conversations Journal. Robert describes his vocation as exploring those places where life, liturgy, theology, and the arts intersect with and promote spiritual formation.

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