One of my favorite Spanish words is "esperar", which means to wait for, to hope for. The older I get the more I appreciate this word. It reminds me that no matter how difficult the "waiting" might be, there is hope because God's hand is at work. There is (or at least should be) joy in waiting because God loves us and His plans are perfect.
But even with this understanding of having great hope, waiting isn't always easy. Sometimes it's annoying and painful.
I think about the time following my college graduation when I wasn't sure what I was doing. For a moment it felt like God was being silent, and that was frustrating. In reality I only had to wait a couple of weeks to hear that I was accepted into a mission work program in Mexico, but the waiting felt like an eternity. I wanted an answer before graduation and I wanted things to happen on my own timetable. But God asked me to wait, and it paid off.
Then there was the stressful time of waiting when I finished up my second year of mission work, and had no idea where God wanted me to go next. I completed the year in Texas, packed up my car with everything I owned, and moved back in with my parents to await further instruction. Again, while it seemed like God was being silent f o r e v e r, there were really only about 5 weeks where God just wanted me to be still, to wait, and to trust that His timing was better than my own.
3 years later I'm still working in my dream job in the most unexpected of places (trust me, Dodge City was not on my radar at all!) and appreciating the fact that God's plans are much better than anything I can come up with on my own. God asked me to wait, and it paid off.
I have to admit that I am not always "full of hope" while waiting to see where God will lead me next. Sometimes waiting is accompanied by tears, desperation, and complaining that God isn't moving fast enough. Yet it seems those are the times when God reminds me of His faithfulness. The waiting has always had meaning and purpose when I remember that God is part of it.
Waiting is hard. It is challenging. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it is stressful. But when God becomes the focus of our waiting, peace enters the unknown and the uncertainty.
In a way, that's what Advent is about. It's a season of waiting, of joyful expectation, of hope. The world was waiting for a Savior, a King, a Mighty Ruler... and God surprised everyone:
Christ's coming was not only an answer to a season of waiting, but it was also an answer that was so much better than what people were expecting. God became a tiny baby. The King of Kings was born in a stable and placed in a manger. God's perfect plan was so much better than what we could have come up with on our own.
Advent reminds us of Christ's first coming, but it also reminds us that Christ will come again. Advent takes us into a season of "espera"... a time of waiting and hoping. We await the joyful celebration of Christ's birth, and we are also full of hope that Christ will return. This waiting and hoping gives meaning to our lives, because it tells us that the story doesn't end here.
Waiting and hoping in the Lord means that we trust Him... We don't know how long we have to wait, we don't know how exactly God's plan will unfold, but when we trust in His promise we know that things will turn out so much better than what we can plan for ourselves.
As we prepare to enter a new year, grant us a sense of peace with where you are leading us. Help us to abandon all fear and give us the courage to step out of the boat and trust you completely. Amen.
be at peace
walk on water
be not afraid