Warmer temperatures and longer days mean that summer exploration possibilities are endless. Adventure abounds each weekend with local festivals, picnics and trips to the lake. My inner child fondly recalls trips to the amusement park during the summer months. These particular adventures were rewards for good grades, or volunteering as a crossing guard or altar server all school year long.
As a teenager, my friends and I would get dropped off at the park and spend the entire day slurping down sugary drinks and riding rides. We would run from one ride to the next not thinking about the hours we waited in line to get our 90-second adrenaline fix. At the end of the day we would be exhausted, and our parents would ferry us home only to have us recount our adventures at high volume.
Fast-forward 15 years and that same trip to the amusement park looks a bit different. A recent visit to Disneyland brought back some of the aforementioned childhood memories, but the waiting-in-line part took on a different quality. Now, as an over-scheduled young adult, these lines tested my patience.
The adult version of me remembers what it was like experiencing the rush of roller coasters and other rides with my friends — the euphoric moments zooming around the corner and hurtling quickly down a hill pumped life into my heart. It was a feeling the teenage me could have chased all day long — the quick bursts of joy with many stops and starts. The amusement park rides still packed the adrenaline rush, but instead of thinking about what would come next, I was thinking about Advent, the season of anticipation and waiting that ends in great joy with Christmas.
Much of our lives is spent waiting. There are lines at the post office, the grocery store, the airport, to name a few. Test results from the doctor’s office seem to take forever. And then there is the anticipation of meeting a future husband or wife.
If we approach it in a way similar to Advent, finding God in all the waiting can give it a quality of joy. During Advent we are to be mindful of the waiting. For many of us, December is a blur with shopping, attending Christmas parties, and hanging decorations. Our waiting time fills with distractions that somehow bring Christmas closer. But not because we wait eagerly; instead we wait busily. In some sense, the waiting for the sake of waiting gets lost because we are too busy to pray and reflect on the true meaning of the season.
As teenagers, waiting in line at an amusement park gave my friends and me time to recount our favorite rides that day, or maybe recall a fond memory from our last trip. We would tease each other and laugh together. Our joy could not be contained! There were no iPhones or Droids, which meant standing in line received our complete and full attention. Those moments of joy seemed much more accessible without distractions. That time with friends in line was sacred.
This is where we can find a parallel in our faith life. Standing in line with friends gives us a chance to deepen relationships and community bonds. We begin to notice that on the longest lines we literally inch toward joy. Our waiting becomes an active waiting.
Waiting with a sense of joy does not cancel out anxieties in life. This kind of waiting takes on a deeper quality. We are living in the moment instead of dreading it. God quietly waits for us.
Like a good teacher, perhaps God wants us to use our time wisely instead of wasting it. This is the message God has for us during Advent. God wants us to wait with joy and think about the things that really matter at that time of year — the coming of Jesus, a symbol of God’s love for all of us, into the world. As we wait for that birth we should recognize the people around us, especially those in need. Waiting indeed has a higher purpose; it gives us the impetus to insert goodness into our lives.
Next time you find yourself waiting in line for a roller coaster or anything else, take a look around. Notice all those around you experiencing this same waiting. Know that God is present at that moment — and all moments — as you inch along on the journey of life.