For your contemplation today during this season of Advent, here are some words of profound insight from Henri Nouwen.
Advent is the time when we practice the discipline of waiting. We focus our attention on the hope to come. We set our hearts on God’s not-yet-seen promises rather than our unfulfilling circumstances in the present. We join the saints who even now are crying “How long?” before God’s throne (Rev 6:10), longing for the world to be put to rights. We take the long view, keep our eyes on the big picture, and walk on.
Nouwen points out that waiting is not doing nothing, twiddling our thumbs, taking the “couch potato” position, opting out of the game. Waiting is a vital, engaged, active stance we take in the life of faith. It’s a matter of responding to God in the presentâ€”right here and now, in the wildernessâ€”hearing and obeying the Word that is spoken so often throughout Scriptureâ€”“Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Ps 27:14)
In fact, one of the key passages in the Bible on faith tells us that waiting on the Lord is very close to the heart of what trusting God involves:
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will notÂ delay.
Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith. (Habakkuk 2:3-4)
Henri Nouwen’s words drive this home. He describes waiting as “nurturing the moment.”
A waiting person is a patient person. The word “patience” means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere. The moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are. Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there. Waiting, then, is not passive. It involves nurturing the moment, as a mother nurtures the child that is growing in her womb.
â€¢ Henri Nouwen, Eternal Seasons, p. 38