The Reward is in the Waiting
In the Christian tradition there are various periods of waiting fashioned after events recorded in the Gospels. Two of the most significant periods are Advent and Lent. Both involve a prolonged period of waiting, and anticipation, related to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Advent is marked with a joyous anticipation of the coming of the King, Messiah. During this time, we sing songs and follow traditions that heighten the joy and anticipation that culminates on Christmas day with family gatherings and the giving of gifts.
Lent appears to be a much more solemn period of waiting. Lasting 40 days, in reference to the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, lent moves its way to the cross, the sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of the world. Sure, there is Easter/Resurrection Sunday at the end, but it appears that the lead up is focused on the pain and suffering ahead. We read the teachings of Jesus that talk about the hardship He will endure, as will His followers. We study the prophecies relating to the suffering savior and we contemplate the weight of our sin, our guilt that He surely must have felt as he gave up His life.
There is a little noticed and not often observed period of waiting in this story. The period between the death and burial of Jesus and His glorious resurrection. Some traditions call this Holy Saturday. But I am sure that for His followers it was the longest day ever. The leader they had left all to follow was now dead and buried in a borrowed tomb. All their hopes and dreams. All the teaching about the Kingdom, and the glory of God now were hollow and meaningless. What were they to do now? Wait?
When I was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, I found that the days between diagnosis and a treatment plan were the longest days of my life. The tension of knowing what I had and not knowing what we could do about it made the days drag on. Life seemed to take a different purpose, a different focus. What if there was nothing to be done? What if the treatment permanently scarred my body, or my psyche? All kinds of questions flooded my mind. But the answer still came back, wait. Waiting is hard. Life is dark in the “in between'' times. Years later I would come to understand that this process made me much better at ministering to others who were “in between.”
In a world that seems all too active, all too demanding, all too exhausting, we are challenged to wait. Sometimes the end of the waiting is the unassuming baby in the manger. Other times it is the glorious triumph of life over death. But often it is a quiet release of our circumstances into the hands of an all-powerful, all-capable and all-knowing God.
The prophet Isaiah has shared the message of God regarding waiting: “but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isa 40:31
So while it is hard to do, the reward is in the waiting.