Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Waiting game…

Blessedly, the weather broke this past weekend from its below zero funk and snow from my roof melted completely. Along with it drained the ice that was clogging my gutters and downspouts, and forming a small, growing ice dam. Last winter, I became familiar with the joylessness of ice damming. They formed in both front and back of my house. Fixing the damage that caused once spring arrived cost us more money than I’d like to admit. This year, though, we found a solution in front; a heating element installed in the gutters I’d hadn’t before noticed and now leave plugged in. No such opportunity for battling ice exists on our rear-facing roof, alas. So as winter began recently, I waited.

And this waiting may be the worst kind; when you suspect something problematic might happen, but you don’t know for sure, though if the cold continues, and more snow falls, and ice keeps forming, that uncertainty ends. You will know. And I mean, KNOW, that it’s only a matter of time before the feared outcome happens - in this case damage to our first-floor ceiling plaster. A word exists for that type of waiting- dread. And praise the seasons’ spirits for extending above freezing temps for two recent days, thereby eliminating our ice dam, for now. My dread receded too.

Another form of waiting also entered my mind of late. Hopefully, it entered yours too. This waiting may be the best kind, on the opposite spectrum end from dread: Expectation. We’re entering Advent soon (or by the time you read this, we may’ve entered) and, of course, that’s the Christian season for waiting, for preparing to honor the annual remembrance of Christ’s Christmas birth. What an interesting decision our religious forebearers made, Amen? Devoting one whole month to waiting. Or perhaps I should be more specific; Advent is devoted to practicing waiting, of the best kind- Expectation.

Expectation is that waiting when you highly suspect the thing you desire will come. You don’t know for certain, obviously, since the future isn’t set yet, but barring unexpected calamity, the wait will end well. I expect a joyful end to our Advent waiting again this year. Christ will arrive. Joy will be born anew. And that expectation helps me fill my inner, emotional space with hope, rather than dread, as this active Advent waiting continues.

As I said, this was an interesting - and smart – decision by those who built Advent into the Christmas calendar. Because the truth about most waiting in our lives is it falls elsewhere on the waiting spectrum. Rarely are we overcome with dread, I hope. Ice dams looming shouldn’t produce the same emotional experience as, say, desiring to upgrade your phone. Nevertheless, many modern Christians aren’t well practiced at good waiting, at turning expectation into hope. Indeed, as technology has improved so rapidly in recent decades, I think we’ve gotten worse at waiting, worse at filling our emotional spaces constructively.

So Plymouth Creek intends to take that reality head on this Advent, and embrace the season of waiting like a friend. In worship- through choir and scripture, sermon and candle lighting- we’ll reflect on the insta-fication of modern life, lamenting its excesses, honoring its gifts. What do you encounter regularly, and except immediate satisfaction or resolution to? Bill paying disputes? Social inequities? Emotional turbulence when you don’t get your way? Some of that’s fine and good, but I worry we’ve all gotten too good at self-righteously, impatiently shouting, “But I don’t want to wait!”

The wisdom of Advent, by contrast, makes the audacious claim that we can deepen our lives by celebrating waiting. Or, at least, we can become better Christians by understanding its contours enough to distinguish between good and bad kinds of waiting, dreads and expectations, problems to abide or solve immediately. So join me in trying to play this waiting game well, in worship, in daily devotionals (if you want ideas, call and I’ll help out!). And please pray for my roof! Or maybe that its owner learns enough to head his dread off, so all will be well.

Grace and Peace,

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