A providential reminder:
Advent arrives every year,
Enters into my impatience,and says
Already, Not Yet.
Already but not yet?
When I was a child I didn’t know what this meant
Outside of gifts under a tree–
Mine, but not yet.
Jesus says God knows how to give good gifts to his children.
I worry about that word “good”.
I think I know what good gifts are, but
God seems to have a different definition in mind.
My parents always asked for a list.
God doesn’t take my list into account.
Or at least
That’s how things stand so far.
Already, Not Yet
Already, Not Yet
Tidings of comfort and joy:
We are the people
Who are given everything,
And we are the people who wait.
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.
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.