Advent: A Time of Waiting and Being Patient

Advent: A Time of Waiting and Being Patient
December 11, 2023

Waiting… It is not easy at all. We want to fix things, make them right, know what’s coming next. Advent is a time when we can think about this idea of waiting and the gift it brings, despite it also being extremely hard. Richard Rohr talks of ‘liminal space’ or sacred space, of being in ‘God’s waiting room’. He says that this is the place where our old certainties fall away, transformation takes place, and God can ‘really get at us’.*  It often also comes with suffering, or we are led into a period of waiting because of the suffering which comes from a huge shock or change in our life. Suffering is itself a liminal space, if we are open to the lessons and growth that can come from it.

Sitting with suffering, and waiting indefinitely without knowing what is coming next, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. When my marriage broke down in June, I went into the most painful place I’ve ever been to in my life. I decided to not avoid the suffering this time, but to instead sit with it and pray that God would hold me and get me through. I didn’t realise at the time, but the suffering also brought transformation and growth. God has been my teacher throughout, and has not only held my hand but has given me people at the right time along the road to also hold my hand and help me in important ways. It doesn’t take away from the pain and suffering, and I still cry frequently, but every day I also grow and learn. One of the things I’ve had to learn during this period is patience. I am not good at patience, and I am not good at waiting. I have ADHD which makes this even harder for me!

My Mum had a vision come to her in the middle of the night (she is quite insomniac!) about a week ago, when I was having a rough few days emotionally. She said she saw someone who had a fear of spiders holding a spider in their hand. My Mum didn’t know what it meant, but I did immediately. It is what is sometimes called ‘aversion therapy’ – basically confronting your fears and then overcoming them. My buddy at work (at my other job) had also recently shown me a clip from a film which she thought was relevant to my situation. In the film, Morgan Freeman is God and explains that, when we pray for patience, God gives us opportunities to practice patience, or when we pray for courage, God gives us opportunities to show courage.  It is really quite profound and true. God, as Freeman puts it, doesn’t ‘zap’ us and make us change, but gives us the opportunity to change and grow, and growth is often hard and painful, but ultimately rewarding.

The image of the spider also reminds me of another image I felt drawn to at the beginning of the separation. One of my favourite artists is Stanley Spencer, and he did a series of paintings called ‘Christ in the Wilderness’. The one which you can see above is of Jesus holding a scorpion in his hand. You can see that he looks on the scorpion with love and sorrow. He loves the scorpion, despite the fact that it has repeatedly stung him, putting his life at risk and making his hands swell up painfully. Spencer is making reference to both Christ’s torture and death at the hands of those he loved, and also to the passage in Luke chapter 11 where Jesus says this:

“Is there anyone among you who, if your child asked for a fish, would give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asked for an egg, would give a scorpion? 13 If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Weirdly enough, my Mum also had this scripture come to her that same night. As I write this reflection, I have managed to miraculously connect them together without even meaning to! Here Jesus is saying that God will hear us when we ask for something and wants to fulfil our needs. It is something I have heard repeatedly from God in this period. And yet, God does also sometimes give us a gift which feels at first more like a scorpion with its painful sting – or a spider if we’re afraid of them. Maybe somehow both the bread and the stone are gifts, but one is a gift to teach us and transform us, and then we are made ready for the second gift of bread, which comes in its good time.

God’s time is never the same as our time, and that is what makes waiting on God so very hard. But the only way forward is for us to do what it says in this second passage of scripture, which I have also been brought back to repeatedly over the past few months:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Trusting and waiting for the blessing to come – and what a blessing it is at the end of Advent! – is so hard, but God gives us opportunities to practice those things we find hard, and through practice, we learn new skills and receive new gifts. God bless you with opportunities to be patient this Advent time.

(c) Ruth Wilde

Helpful documents

Ruth Wilde

Tutor for Inclusion of Disabled People