Waiting: What we can’t see!

Originally uploaded by M e l o d y

I have been reflecting on what Luci Shaw says, “anticipation lifts the heart.”

But if I am completely honest, I have found the waiting of this season to be excruciating. These weeks of in-between, of surrender, of emptying, of letting go and ultimately, the truth of knowing that what is coming, the Son of God coming as a Babe, it is so undeserved.  This anticipation feels uncomfortable.

“Faith is giving permission” Richard John Neuhaus says. “The gift has already been given and forever is now for those who have given God permission to let life be a gift.”

Mary, the mother of Jesus, anticipated his birth like any mother would if she were hugely pregnant!  And our waiting for the Babe is like being engulfed with pregnant expectation. The women reading, who have carried a child in their womb know this feeling.   The weight changes you! (by which I do not mean ‘weight gain’ but rather the feeling of being weighed down by what is to come).  Changes how you walk, how you sit, how you sleep (or don’t!) Day after day you wake, wondering if this is the day! You are full of anticipation that the babe might come today and you are rather helpless as to its timing.

Paul gives us a description of waiting in the New Testament book of Romans, as rendered by Eugene Peterson,

“Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.”

I’m challenged to turn my impatience into a contentment I do not feel. I don’t want to rush. I don’t want to worry.  Will this gift appeal or meet the expectation? Who will surely be disappointed? Who is longing for something else. That’s bogus! I hate it. I want to sit “enlarged” by the waiting for the Babe.

This year, I feel as if I am waiting for something more.

It has been a long time coming. I do not know what I am doing with myself, my future, my career, what I am learning, my searching and my growing, with finding my voice and finding myself. This has all been happening so slowly, for the most part.  At times it comes in fits and bursts that have amazed me! But it has felt glacial in most other cases.  It has been a decade of anticipation.

Some days this is distressing.  And there are days when I completely lack any vision for my life – for its grander purpose.  I scream at God, impatiently. If I had quote that sums it up now, it might be this:

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. ~ Albert Einstein

But as we question and wait, we must be clear about something else.  The book of James incredibly says it:  “Let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete.” Oh, how I long to be mature and complete.  Less striving.  More peaceful waiting.

And Shaw finally, “Pain, grief, consternation, even despair, need not diminish us. They can augment us by adding to the breadth and depth of our experience, by enriching our spectrum of light and darkness, by keeping us from impulsively jumping into action before the time is ripe, before ‘the fullness of time.’ I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.”

It is his Son that I long for in this last week of Advent.  Oh, there is more that I wonder about but I know ultimately that the Babe is all I need.

God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas.

My Head and My Heart Ache

Conscience, Judas
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I woke up “in a state.”  I cannot shake the foreboding I feel.  It conjures up thoughts of very bleak times in my life.

But I start my day just like any other by popping out of bed, drinking strong coffee, sitting and opening my heart to the day.

Days like this I cannot run from or even slip out from under out of timidity, no matter how hard I try.  The gloominess sticks to me.  That is until I figure out what’s bothering me.  I’ve learned, if I don’t slow down and pay attention to it, this mood will pitch a tent inside me, lurking there for as long as it takes.  Eventually plundering my heart and mind.  And if I’m not careful, my soul.

Shivering from the fear of it, I cede to the fact that I must not ignore it so some things won’t get done today.  I resolve not to be overcome by the anxious ideas or allow my heart to be looted by what I cannot tease out.  My thoughts like are tangled and knotted up in such a way that the only result is my head and heart ache.  Jumbled thoughts, but some along these lines …

  • Why must women work so hard for less money than their male counterparts?

  • Why is the Church the most subtly bigoted place I go to in my entire week?

  • Why are so many Christian marriages “women as modern-day maids serving ‘grown up’ boys.”

  • Why don’t more women question these things and speak up.

  • Why do I get hurt by the subtle ways of discrimination in our culture that don’t change: the old boys club that excludes women historically from the organizations, clubs, pulpits, schools, boards, Presidential jobs of institutions, rock and roll bands, television, important movie roles, and so on?

  • Why is it so hard just to be equals? And why do women accept it?  Why is this still true?

I’m not hurt for myself, but I feel a deep empathy for these women.  And for our daughters who are growing up in this world.

The suffragists managed to vocalize their concerns and in time changed things.  And yet, even as I write this things stay the same.  In doing research for his review of the movie Made in Deganham, about the women strikers against Ford UK, Roger Ebert wanted to find out when equal pay for equal work first became the law in the United States.

“I didn’t discover what I expected. Only two weeks ago, a Republican filibuster in the U. S. Senate prevented passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have added teeth to measures for equal pay…”  Here’s his full article.

Yeah, you read that right less than a month ago.

Why do I lose sleep, live with heartache, and write about this.  Because it matters, to me.


I have read a book recently that parallels the words and work of Jesus through the Gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  His spiritual journey, guiding the three, twelve, the 70 and all the people he met.  Many many things have struck me, but here’s something stunning that’s relevant here.

There is a story that is found in all four books.  That makes it striking right off.  Simon the Leper and the Woman found in Matthew 26.6-16, Mark 14.3-10, Luke 7.36-50 and John 12.1-8.

In these stories these things are true: A woman (unnamed in three books or called a “sinner” and Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus in the book of John.) used very expensive, perfumed oil, called Spikenard, to wash Jesus’ feet.  She wept on his feet, knowing that he was to die.  She was anointing his body for burial.  The men in the room disregarded her (and her importance) saying she should have sold the oil for money and give it to the poor.  Jesus said, not only did you NOT wash my feet when I came, or honor me treating me with any sort of revere, but you also do not know who this woman is.  She will be remembered he said.  Because they were calling her “sinner” and implying bad things about her, in one account he even tells a story of the creditor with two debtors, one for 500 and one for 150.  He forgave them both equally.    And then, in all except Luke) Judas betrays Jesus.  Yeah, right then and there.

Jesus promised the woman a place in history for she has done the thing that called out to be done if one is attentive, ready and attentive.

All I can do is highlight the thing that stands out to me.

The nameless woman heard of Jesus somewhere, and believed that Jesus was the son of God and would soon die.  She came to honor him.  She wept over his upcoming death, anointed his body in an action of believing faith after which Jesus said she was forgiven.

The Disciples saw her come in and wanted to throw her out.  Pointed out what a terrible choice she made.  Scolded.

Judas rather, one of the twelve disciples who learned from the Rabbi for years, betrayed him for a few coins not believing.  Not learning — seemingly — anything.

I do wonder, if women were at the table with the twelve, oh wait she was there.  Not “welcomed” at the table with them as a guest, but … If women were in the discussion, affirmed and given similar choices and opportunities to men, how would the world be different?  How would I be different?  And you?

I believe it is women who have been most betrayed in this life.  As over and over again in our society message are sent that diminish and demean.   I believe that Jesus has a different message for women.  It’s just that men (some, not all of course) just don’t see and hear the truth of Jesus message to the Church about how men and women relate.

More to come.


Reading Jesus: A Writer’s Encounter with the Gospels, Mary Gordon, Pantheon Books, NY, 2009.