Finding purpose in the wait of the Advent season

Here we are. Advent has begun. We’ve entered a time of preparation and prayer and waiting.
And there’s the challenge. I have no talent for waiting. I’m a deadline person, so knowing I have to have gifts wrapped and cards sent and decorations up before Dec. 25 is fine. I will get that done. I know how to scramble at the last minute to pull things together.
What is more challenging for me is leaning into this time, taking advantage of the opportunity to embrace these days and weeks to work on becoming the person I ought to be to greet the Christ Child.
That’s why Advent is just what I need.
Because the shopping and cards and mailing and decorating? I can do that in the last couple days before Christmas.
But the real reason for Advent? The hard work I have to do on myself before Christmas? That needs to start now. That undertaking requires a process, a growing, an evolving. And if I don’t start today, as we light that first candle on the wreath, I may not be ready to welcome the Infant Jesus into my heart on Christmas morning.

Oh, how I hate long processes. I respond much better to immediate urgency. Give me a fire to put out, not a garden to grow.
It’s one of the reasons the adoption process was so difficult for me. But I learned many valuable lessons through those waits on top of waits, as milestones came and went. Again and again I came to see that almost all of the process was outside my control—and that that was a good thing.
When we were adopting our first son, I knew we were ready. How could we not be ready? We had been waiting for years for a child. Why did it have to take so long? After we saw our son’s photo, I paced and struggled and even cried as the weeks dragged into months. I was so anxious to meet our son as soon as we could. In my mind, he was waiting for us in the same way that we were waiting for him.
Then we finally traveled to China, and our baby boy walked into our arms. And I realized how well-loved and well-cared-for he had been. I learned about the wonderful people who had been caring for him. I discovered that that time had been a positive one for him.
And I realized our little boy hadn’t been waiting for us. He had been growing and learning and becoming his sweet little self. That time had prepared him so that he would be more ready for us—and us so we would be more ready for him. Not that bonding was easy and without grief. That transition is always hard. But our little boy knew we were coming. He was old enough to understand that. And we met him at the right moment for him—and for our family.
There’s a value to the passage of time. Even in today’s world, not everything is instant. And sometimes time that feels like an obstacle is a gift.
So this Advent, I’m trying to take this journey one moment at a time. I’m trying to appreciate that time must pass, and that there’s a purpose and a joy to this journey of preparation.
The shopping I can start on Dec. 23. My successful Advent journey begins now. I hope you’ll join me.
How are you approaching Advent this year?

Joining Theology Is a Verb and Reconciled to You for Worth Revisiting Wednesday on Dec. 14, 2016.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.