One of the most thought provoking readings from the 30 Day Retreat book I posted about on Wednesday was talking about the season of Advent and waiting. There are many parallels to be drawn there, just as with any of the other major church fasting periods. The author compares the countdown to the birth of Christ to the excruciating wait of test results or an extra long line at the coffee shop, but the bottom line is that we spend a lot of our time waiting. At the end of the chapter he recommends reading the Old Testament prophets, who predicted Mary bearing Christ into the world or finding ways to give locally especially during the giving season, but the whole chapter provoked some much deeper thoughts in me.
When you look at the big picture we are not just waiting for our food to arrive, for the meeting to start or at stop lights, we are waiting to die. As much as we are told by the media nothing bad will happen to us, I believe we all are aware of our mortality and on some level are wondering if this day will be our last. If we know that this is inevitable, why are we waiting at all? When we know we have a big test on Friday, do we spend Monday-Thursday waiting or do we prepare and study? I know there is a lot of procrastination these days, but really truly, with something as precious as your life, because you only get one, why waste it waiting?
By prepare, I don’t mean prepping or storing mass quantities of food and water or saving seeds of your favorite vegetables, while there is nothing wrong with these things, I mean prepare your soul. Christ taught his disciples and all those whom they visited, to take up our cross and follow Him. He didn’t say don’t worry you can wait until tomorrow. So why are we waiting now? I think we have forgotten. We have forgotten our faith and the work it requires.
One of Christ’s biggest commandments that he stresses in every Gospel is to love others as ourselves. It is very easy to say, “I do my best to be kind” or “that doesn’t really mean everybody, because so-n-so they are just horrible” or “Why? they don’t love me.” I say those to excuse my own behavior sadly and I am betting I am not the only one. But if I change my outlook from waiting for the right time to live my faith, you know around the right people, to I am preparing to die all of those excuses become irrelevant. I should use my time to pray for people, especially the ones that I have used those excuses on and I should seek their forgiveness for not loving them. I am not the Judge, I am going to die just like they are I should overlook their humanity and see the divinity within them because God gave me that opportunity and I failed.
If we look at scripture and the early fathers of the Church, they tell us a multitude of things we need to do or amend into our lives to prepare for our earthly sojourn to end. It is easy to overlook them or make excuses. “I’m waiting for a sign” or “I’m not going to die tomorrow, I have time.” None of us knows what time we have and really if the average person spends 50 hours in traffic each year, it’s possible to change your time by listening to scripture in the car or simply praying in that time and no I don’t mean “Lord please get me out of this traffic” but giving thanks for all you have, for the people in your life and offering to God all of your struggles. This one change might be the first in a line of dominos which helps you see the bigger picture.
Each day given to us is a day to do better than the day before. The sooner we recognize that and act deliberately instead of passively waiting for the time of our death, the more life we will live. We will be able to approach death knowing that we have done all that we can to move towards the Kingdom, while still on earth, in stead of wasting time waiting for the Kingdom to come to us.
Are you waiting for big things in your life? What are ways you could prepare for them instead?