I thought things would slow down during the pandemic. I expected lockdowns to give me more time and a reduced workload. I’m sure that’s what happened for many people. And I’m equally sure that for many people the slow down was not good news, but rather the source of great anxiety. But for me, the slowdown never happened. On the contrary, my workload increased and, while I made a point of prioritising time for my family and for my own physical and mental health, I found my time to be more pressured than I would have liked.
How did the pandemic affect you? Did it give you more free time than you would have wanted? Or did it increase your workload too?
OUR LOST CAPACITY TO WAIT
Regardless of how the last two years have affected me personally, this year I have been deeply aware of the pace of life in the 21st Century. The effectiveness of business is measured in quarters and of leaders in days. Products come and are replaced by upgrades at a startlingly fast pace. Delayed gratification is a long lost concept, but in all the rush and impatience we fail to see the devastation that results.
We need to recover the lost art of waiting.
When we lose our capacity to wait, we lose the wonderful sense of anticipation that can bring such joy and excitement to our lives. We begin to see our longings as a problem, especially if they are not fulfilled immediately. And when there’s no longing, no anticipation, and no waiting, our growth as human beings gets severely stunted.
But when we learn to wait well, actively, and intentionally, we receive a whole array of gifts. And that’s why this Advent season is so important. Advent is designed around the spiritual discipline of waiting. It engages our longing for a better world and better lives and it invites us into the mystery of incarnation (which we are exploring in our spiritual practice videos in the EvoFaith Tribe and on our YouTube channel). And, as we wait for the Christmas celebration, we are invited to engage actively with the divine work of salvation, restoration, and new creation that is always happening within us and around us.
When we make waiting a spiritual practice, we always end up facing the parts of ourselves that demand instant gratification. Our grumpiness, selfishness, and impatience come to the surface and we are given the opportunity to listen to them and learn from them. And then, when we have identified the source of our impatience, we are able to work with it to find a place of greater calm and comfort in waiting. And that, in turn, opens us to the gifts of waiting—the anticipation, excitement, longing, and growth that waiting offers.
LEARNING TO WAIT
So, how do we nurture the spiritual practice of waiting? Here are a few suggestions, but feel free to add to this list.
- Be mindful of the urge to rush ahead to quick and easy gratification. When you feel this, ask yourself where the urgency and haste originate in you. And then make the choice to slow down.
- Engage mindfully and meaningfully with any discomfort that arises around waiting. Listen to what your impatience wants to tell you and reassure yourself that waiting won’t lead to loss but can actually bring benefits.
- Nurture feelings of anticipation, excitement, and longing. Engage with what you’re waiting for—don’t try to put it out of your mind. Imagine receiving what you’re waiting for, and enjoy the pleasure and excitement that this brings.
- Use spiritual practices, like the observation of Advent, to train yourself to use times of waiting for spiritual reflection and growth. Let these times teach you things about yourself and about life that you wouldn’t be able to learn in any other way.
- Waiting is linked with hope. So use the practice of waiting to strengthen and sustain your capacity for hope—even when what you long for seems impossible or absent.
- When the waiting is over and the time for receiving comes, go into it slowly. Make sure to savour the receiving and to be mindful and present to the joy, gratitude, and fulfilment that comes when something you’ve waited for finally arrives.
- In the waiting learn to be grateful for what you already have or experience. And be present to the things that make you feel most fully alive—loved ones and relationships, your connection with God, others, and the world. Your connection with your deepest and most authentic self.
WHAT WAITING MEANS FOR YOU
We live in a world where waiting is extremely devalued. But our world of instant gratification and impatience is not good for our souls. It’s not that we should never enjoy immediate gratification. But if we never delay gratification we never get the chance to engage with what matters most and to receive the gifts of anticipation, excitement, longing, and a deeper life that waiting offers.
What value have you found in waiting? What makes waiting more difficult for you? How could the suggestions here help you to become more comfortable with waiting? And what gifts might you enjoy if you were to turn waiting into a spiritual practice?
Please share your stories of gifts that you’ve received in waiting. And feel free to add to the list of practices that can help us all to wait more mindfully and intentionally.
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