There are so many beautiful words to describe active waiting: expectancy, joy, pregnancy, anticipation. It’s what we tend to experience during the Advent season. Active waiting (also called Advent or expectant waiting) evokes incredible hope in us, because we are on the cusp of watching how God’s plan unfolds for a specific promise.
A few points pertaining to this type of waiting will guide us as we move through our own journey. Think of the popular song, “I Wonder As I Wander” for this type of expectancy. A seed has been planted. Its in the germination stage right now, and what is required of you is to be vigilant and patience until the time of flourishing – which God determines – arrives.
We Wait In Community
Let’s look to a beautiful example of expectant waiting – the Visitation. What did the Blessed Mother do as soon as she heard the news of Elizabeth’s pregnancy and after she accepted the invitation to bear the Son of God? She went in haste to share this joy with her cousin! They were both pregnant with a promise, so they gathered together in friendship, in community, to allow the seed of human life to grow within them.
When we wait in joyful anticipation, we remember that ‘nothing is impossible for God.’ (Waiting with Purpose, p. 47)
Have Confidence in God’s Promise
One of my favorite saints-to-be is Blessed Solanus Casey. He is well known for his famous quip, “Thank God ahead of time.” What does this mean for us when we are waiting – often with a certain amount of restlessness or tension – for new birth, new life, or a new phase of life to begin? We focus on who God is and all He has already accomplished in our lives. It’s important to thank God for all that He has done, is doing, and will do for us. That’s what expectant faith is – it’s faith that is confident in God.
We know He will act, and we pray accordingly – with expectation of answered prayer.
Expect to Move from Community to Contemplation
God often prepares us for a particular mission in cycles and seasons. We know this from our waiting experiences that somehow give way to seasons of activity and then back to dormancy. If expectant faith relies upon our lives in relationship, then we know we are being formed by those to whom we are closest – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, spouses, children.
The people who live with us see us at our best and worst. They might draw out specific flaws or weaknesses – tendencies toward impatience, for example. As we enter into prayer each day, God reflects this reality to us so that we might allow Him to further chisel away the imperfections that deter us from spiritually advancing.
Then, one day, or perhaps gradually, we will move from a stage of activity to the desert. Community tends to precede contemplation, in that God draws us – whether quite literally (as in the case of an anchoress or hermit) or interiorly – into a more reflective state of solitude. It is during our time in the desert when God guides us more directly, though we cannot see or feel much of anything.
We wait – always in joyful hope – whether in community or contemplation.
This post was adapted from Chapter 3 in my book, Waiting with Purpose: Persevering When God Says “Not Yet.”