My daughter, Andrea, has some great thoughts on the meaning of waiting in the importance of Advent. Thought you would enjoy this guest blog–
I spoke at my church the first Sunday of Advent. We’re following the narrative lectionary for the season and that Sunday’s passage was from Habakkuk. I had never read Habakkuk, and I was struck by the prophet’s candor before God—”How long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen?” (1:2)—and his honesty when looking at the desolate landscape around him—”Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines” (3:17).
This prophet is waiting on God for an answer. He wants to know why God has allowed Israel to grow so evil and what God is going to do about it. In response, God reveals his plan for Israel to be captured by Babylon as punishment. This response leaves Habakkuk with more questions than answers, but God assures Habakkuk that Israel will also be delivered from Babylonian captivity. All Habakkuk has to do now is wait for God to make good on that promise.
Throughout the book, Habakkuk assumes different postures before God. He questions God. He prays to God. And eventually he praises God, but the posture that most resonated with me was when Habakkuk falls silent before God.
After asking God question after question about what is going to happen and why, Habakkuk says, “I will stand at my watchpost, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint” (2:1).
I imagine Habakkuk coming to the end of himself here. He has prayed and asked and pleaded and what he does next is the only thing he has energy left to do—be quiet. He waits on the rampart, but he says nothing.
I have found myself in this place before as I wait on an answer from God. I pray the prayer as many times as I can in as many ways as I can, but at some point I run out of words. I open my mouth to pray yet again but nothing comes out except, You know what I’m going say. And I realize my knees have grown tired from kneeling, and I stand up and walk away.
I think there’s a correlation here between the silent posture of waiting and rest. Both forbid doing and acting. Both require quiet, the type of quiet that allows things to surface we’d rather keep down with busyness and prayer: doubt, anger, fear, anxiety. Perhaps this is a part of my resistance to rest. It reminds me of the silence that God has yet to fill. It places the questions in my direct view and it sets me on the rampart.
Considering these similarities, I wonder if rest is essential to waiting. Habakkuk could not continue to shake his fist forever. He needed to take a break and go quiet for a while. After a time of silence, he was able to move onto prayer and finally to praise, but only after the silence.
Silence can feel like giving up on faith. It can certainly look that way. Why have you quit praying? Do you no longer believe? But what if silence is simply a rest from waiting? A less active, less emotionally trying phase of waiting on God with faith. What if rest is what allows us to continue waiting rather than give up on waiting?
I’m not a huge fan of Advent. I don’t get why people write books about it, create calendars around it. An entire season dedicated to the concept of waiting–my least favorite thing? No thank you. But I can rally behind this idea of taking a break from the waiting. This is a hopeful Advent for me.
I wait on some things with such intensity. I spend energy in the waiting by thinking about it, praying for it, wondering what it will be like when I finally have it. Sometimes, I need a break from waiting. I need to fall silent. I need to designate a period of time—a week, month, year—in which I will not actively and exhaustively wait. I’ve thought enough, prayed enough, journaled enough. I can put the pen down, shut my mouth, take a nap.
Rest is a gift in the midst of waiting. It is a part of the waiting process, not a detour from it.
What is it that you are waiting on? What is the answer or the thing God has yet to give you?
If you, like me, have found yourself opening your mouth to pray but no words are coming out, it could be that this season finds you where Habakkuk once was: waiting on the rampart. It could be that you need to give yourself permission to be there for a bit. Perched on top, waiting in silence, and also in rest.
© Andrea Lucado