Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
“If we have any boast, it is not in our wealth or wisdom or strength. It is that we know the Lord. But an even greater boast…is that the Lord knows us. Here is our place to stand, our resting place.”¹
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
“I am afraid of insidious hands Oh Lord which grope into the darkness of my soul. Please be my guard against them.”²
When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.³
“Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him,
How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus
Oh for grace to trust him more.”
¹Stephen Smallman, Forty Days on the Mountain
²Flannery O’Connor, Prayer Journal
Lord, I am afraid of hope.
No good reason, I know.
Plenty of good reasons, I feel.
I acquiesce your sovereignty
Over clothing and food.
Lily of the valley,
Sparrow of the field,
Yes, even the least of these.
Never mind needs.
Wants are the stuff of hope,
And these I refuse to count on
With good reason.
Good isn’t about getting what I want.
And Lord you are so good.
So you see I doubt myself,
To know good when I see it.
I feel depravity deep in my core.
The heart is deceitful
Above all things.
So Lord I’m scared to tell you
What I want.
I’m afraid it won’t be good enough,
Afraid even that the very speaking will negate
Any positive response
You may otherwise have been considering.
I know all the Bible answers for this problem of mine.
But I’m betting on the fact
That you want to hear from me.
So here I am,
And here is what I want:
To see hopes fulfilled.
To hear YES while I still care.
To trust that somehow
Good doesn’t always mean NO.
To know and feel your love.
For that love to be enough.
Lord hear my prayer.
Realizing this will be my prayer all my mortal days:
Satisfy me in you.
Because my foolish heart is forever distracted
By the glimmering dreams of this world.
Perhaps their glow and temptation will lessen, someday.
This is the hope which underlies my prayers,
That each morning will find my heart
More drawn to you,
If only by the smallest fraction.
Is this hope enough for you to work with?
I only desire you insofar as my mind
Tells me it is my best option,
This state where you are the context and comfort
In all my joy and all my sorrow.
Yet my heart is vain
And deceitful above all things–
Refusing to know truth,
Believing it can find anchor in creation,
Trusting only in itself and no other.
So here, my prayer and my confession eternal:
I do not love you as I ought.
I am easily led astray by empty promises,
By shadows and shallow pleasures.
Lord, satisfy my heart and mind in you alone.
Lord, you do not grow tired or weary,
Yet I still worry that you will tire
Of my asking for the same thing, again
Asking for what I am still unsure
I actually want.
You know, I’ve become accustomed to Fear;
I press close to it as a familiar friend,
My surety in the midst of all other uncertainties,
Making me, for a moment,
The master of my own miserable little kingdom.
Every day is a gift, so they say,
But I squander these days you’ve given me,
Hoping for a new set that will be more to my liking,
Laid out neatly and just as I prefer:
A future defined and dependable.
So what I ask, Lord, is to be glad
In this day.
The future still stands vague and terrifying,
But right now I plead for Peace, for Hope,
Just for today,
Knowing I can seek you again tomorrow.
Father, forgive me,
For I have forgotten once more,
To trust You.
The promises I think You’ve made,
Or the desires I dream You’ll fulfill,
But You, alone.
Help me, Father,
To be enough for me.
I’ve been whispering it for years,
Sheltering in place:
God with us, God with us.
Immanuel has been my comfort
In dark places.
But this sign grows still greater:
Immanuel, Immanuel is a promise,
And a battle cry.
Is my sword and my shield.
Whom shall I fear?
God is with me.
Tell me, what is it
Which moves me,
If I were a photographer, I’d picture
The grasses and trees
Scenting the pitch night air,
Hair blown in eyes, nose, mouth,
Arms out and up,
Catching sticky, humid air,
Asking for a way to feel
Which does not lead to heart, chest, body
Joy, Grace, Relief (truly, relief),
I have no pictures.
Only words, which reach to half
Of a moment which has happened
More than once.
I’ve always had sympathy for the apostles who fell asleep while Jesus was praying in Gethsemane. I have even more sympathy these days, when a Friday night finds me, more often than not, passed out on my couch by 8pm. I wonder if they could have stayed awake better if they’d known why they had to wait so long. Waiting always seems easier when you know why, so perhaps they could have kept their eyes open if they’d understood what was really going on in that garden.
We’re just around the corner from the start of Advent. Every year I give a little nerdy spiel to my students about how the word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “arriving”. I tell them about why that matters, and that we use this time of year to think about two arrivals of Christ: the one already happened, and the one not yet here. I tell them we live in a time between, and that Advent gives us the space to reflect on that in a special way.
The problem is, outside of the Advent season, I’m often just killing time while waiting for that not-yet-arrived Jesus to show his face again. I’m tapping my toes and checking my watch as if I’m at the DMV, wondering why, for the love of all that’s holy, I am still stuck here. Just like the apostles, I am bad at waiting, and too often I fall asleep when I most need to be alert. However, I think I could be better at waiting if I had a deeper sense of what was around the corner and a greater purpose in what I ought to be doing in the meantime to help keep my soul awake. It’s one of the reasons I treasure the Advent season as a time to refocus and reorient my habits of waiting. It allows for a more natural rhythm of peace and reflection that can so easily elude me during the other months of the year.
My friend Becky shares my love for this season, and this year we teamed up and wrote a prayer journal specifically for Advent. Check out by clicking here. It’s full of different verses and creative exercises to facilitate a time of quiet reflection. In a season so easily overtaken by a flurry of activity, we hope it’s something that can bring peace and direction as you wait in Already-Not-Yet.