It’s really hard to fathom that Christmas is only three weeks away. It is perhaps harder to fathom that my baby girl will be here in around six weeks. Those two events seem to be coming like freight trains, and yet there is still a sense of twiddling my thumbs, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more.
Most years in Advent, we will hear the story of a pregnant woman, Mary; Christian traditions call her theotokos: bearer of God, or Mother of God. Interestingly, most images of the theotokos show Mary as a halo-ed woman cradling the baby Jesus. But Advent is not about Mary as mother; Advent is about Mary as a pregnant woman. Advent is about the journey leading up to the birth of Jesus. Advent is about pregnancy, and pregnancy is all about waiting.
Some pregnant women wait a long time before they tell anyone of their “condition”. Pregnant women wait for their morning sickness to end, and then to see the baby bump, and then to feel the first kick, and then for the actual birth of their baby. Pregnant women wait around nine months for this unknown but miraculous thing growing inside them.
I spent more than half of this year as a pregnant women, so I have spent that time waiting. And really, there are no halos; it’s just not that glamorous. Conceiving was not easy for us, so I waited to make sure I stayed pregnant; I waited to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time; I waited for over a month for the awful and debilitating all-day (not just morning) sickness to subside; I waited for a time when I would not feel so exhausted; I waited for those first kicks, only to discover that my very kicky baby would keep me from a whole night’s sleep. And in these last, hot summery months, I am waiting eagerly and a little uncomfortably for my baby to be born. There is also a sense of waiting to see what kind of parents we might be.
Maybe Mary got advice telling her to wait it out; that these things blow over in time; that the nausea will end eventually; that as the scriptures say, waiting on God will renew her strength and cause her to mount up on wings like eagles. But I imagine that Mary told those non-pregnant advice givers that the waiting is really hard sometimes; that she was far too heavy to fly like an eagle; that growing a person inside one’s body does not renew strength – it saps energy. Yes, I imagine that Mary had moments of wanting to shout out: “Can we move onto the next chapter already?!”
In both pregnancy and spiritual life, waiting (and waiting and waiting) can be tiring and frustrating. When all eyes are on the proverbial prize, the long journey becomes no more than a tedious means to an end. And we’re all guilty of this; we all want deliverance from our challenges, without the road to get there. We want instant answers without real discernment. We want spiritual maturity without the disciplined work required each day. We focus on getting to heaven more than being Christ-bearers on earth. We focus on the baby, not the pregnancy.
The season of Advent encourages us to look for the lessons of pregnancy. Here’s one: Although waiting is difficult, rushing to the end can actually diminish quality of life. We need each day between conception and birth to grow. We need to learn to live with discomfort and the unknown. Not because it makes us stronger. But because it makes us truly human. Slow down, friends, and wait.