Friday, December 01, 2006
Redeeming the Time: Waiting
"And the Bridegroom tarried..." (Mt. 25:1-13)
Waiting. It feels so unproductive, so helpless, often so hopeless. And yet God arranges our lives to that waiting is a large part of what we are called to do.
In the parable of the Wise & Foolish Virgins, these ladies are asked to wait in the dark for an unspecified length of time right on the doorstep of the party. The only sure thing is that the Bridegoom will come.
And we have this in common with the saints before the Incarnation, that we do not know when exactly to expect the One for whom we long, but we are asked to wait in the dark until then. We wait not only for the final coming of the Lord, when He will finish all the work He has in hand here, but also we wait for those small, personal Advents when He dispels some darkness within each of our hearts and invites us to commune with Him in some fresh intimacy.
I do not know what darkness engulfs you: sickness, poverty, business failures, separations, persecutions, mental instability, worry over children...But I do know that God rarely removes these things quickly or easily. And I know that, in His sovereign omnipotence, He could. And that knowledge increases my darkness.
So what is it about waiting that God values so much that He leaves us to suffer in the dark for so long? Well, according to this parable, waiting separates those who will remain faithful through darkness from those who won't. Waiting reveals those who have a personal connection to the oil merchant, the flame-giver, the Spirit. Waiting causes us to take the initiative seek the Spirit before we are tested, to establish a relationship with Him that will sustain us through the longest night. Waiting increases our longing for deliverance, for the pleasures that are in Jesus' company, for the revelations that the blazing light at the feast will show and that our little lamp wicks teach us to expect.
This Advent, as we light the first lonely candle on our dark Advent wreath, we will read this parable and ask for the Spirit's full supply of the 'oil of gladness' that sustained Jesus through the darkness of His sojourn with us, and that will surely sustain us through whatever midnight we are asked to watch. And we will brainstorm together ways to nourish the little flames of hope and anticipation God gives us particularly in the areas of our lives where we find the deepest darkness.
And this week, we will have all our dinners together lit only by the light of that one Advent candle, as we speak of our longings for more closeness with the Bridegroom and of the foretastes of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb that we have seen that day.
Bon appetit! and keep your matches dry.