My three-year-old son asks me daily if I have purchased the Ninja Turtle belt that can hold his weapons. He then assures me that his weapons are just toys and for “pertend.” “They don’t really hurt people, Mom.” And every day I respond in kind, “No buddy, I know it is hard but we have to wait a little longer. Maybe for Christmas.” On good days he follows with “how long until Christmas?” On others he throws a fit of some kind.
It is so hard to wait. It always has been. Not just for the young ones but for all of us. In our culture of instant everything—Amazon Now, Amazon Prime Air (think drone), fast food, Keurig coffee makers, Twitter, and Snapchat, among others—it is hard to imagine waiting for anything. In our consumer-driven culture we are told we should never wait and when we do have to wait, we take our “business” elsewhere. I see this in healthcare all the time. Our patients and families are viewed as customers and our care as a product and service.
But there is value in waiting. Waiting can give us perspective. Waiting can remove ourselves from the center of our lives. Waiting can create anticipation. Waiting can build trust. Waiting can be formative.
But waiting becomes increasingly more difficult when you believe that what you are waiting for is good, what God wants, what you are entitled to, etc. When what you want “doesn’t really hurt people” as my son says, why would we need to wait? Furthermore, when what I want is justice, release from oppression, a stop to the violence, waiting seems more destructive, not hope-filled.
With another mass shooting (more than one a day in the United States alone for 2015) waiting is deadly. It is costing people’s lives. This “waiting for someone, something to change” causes us to be suspicious of our neighbor (the one we are called to love and serve). Our fear of death becomes our primary obsession.
How do we know when to wait and when to act?
I am reminded that God was born among us in the midst of such violence and oppression. Jesus and his parents fled their homeland to Egypt to escape the violence. Not much has changed since then. I am thankful for Advent, the holy season of waiting and anticipation. It seems to honor most fully the tension I experience in my life and the lives of those around me. It acknowledges the violence and oppression in our lives and our longing for God’s reign to come. As followers of Jesus, I resonate with John the Baptist’s question, “Are you the one or should we wait for another?” All I know is that when the disciples thought the world was ending in Luke 21, Jesus told them, “Stand up and raise your head.” They needed to stay alert because their redemption was near, the kingdom of God was near. They were told that in the midst of the violence, that was when they should look for God to be at work. Even in the most ordinary of things like the budding of a fig tree would be a sign.
So in the midst of violence and chaos and oppression, may we look for God’s redemption. May we be instruments of peace.