In this unprecedented time of a global pandemic, I find myself unexpectedly in a time of waiting. Waiting to go back into stores that currently don’t feel safe to me. Waiting to invite friends over for meals in my home. Waiting to hug my high-risk parents again. Waiting to see them embrace their grandchild for the first time in months.
This time of waiting isn’t easy, and it calls me back to the greatest torment of waiting in my life: six years ago, when I was head-over-heels in love and an ocean away from my then-boyfriend, now husband, as I spent five months studying abroad in Spain.
It wasn’t easy. Long-distance never is. As I walked to my classes each day, I felt the deep ache of that distance in my heart. Even in the moments of sweetness, when I saw beautiful mountains and met incredible friends, there was still sadness, too. I longed to share each of those experiences with my boyfriend, and at that point, it wasn’t possible to do so.
It was during that time — as I scoured the internet for quotes that could help me through — that I discovered St. Therese of Lisieux’s quote that “waiting purifies.” I didn’t understand what it meant at the time, but it gave me comfort, if only in the hope that there would be fruit from my heartache. And perhaps, that fruit may be a marriage.
This hope allowed me to continue to turn to God for help, and he showed up again and again in ways that exceeded my expectations. For example, one day when I felt especially far from my family and all my friends back home, I became snippy with my boyfriend on video chat. When we hung up, I felt awful, and I realized that I was irritated because he couldn’t give me what I really wanted at that moment and hadn’t gotten in a very long time: a hug.
I packed up my books and headed to class as the sun rose over the breathtaking Spanish hills.
“Please God,” I prayed. “Send me a hug today. I really need it!”
Before the day was done, and without any prompting on my part, the children I tutored in English swept me up in a double-hug and a baby, whom I had never met until that evening, fell asleep in my arms.
God sent me so much more than I asked for. I had only to wait.
Those months of waiting while I was abroad in Spain opened up a yearning in my heart that God answered. He showed me how, like a gardener tending a tomato vine which is fruitless for months until finally yielding bright red fruit, he tends us, while our struggles and waiting still seem fruitless.
Recently, a friend asked me if waiting in Spain had made the payoff of reuniting with my boyfriend better. I don’t know. It has, no doubt, influenced the way we see each other now in marriage — understanding that every day together is a gift. Furthermore, it made me better. When I look back on that time in my life, it was the most intense period of bonding with God that I had yet experienced. As hard as it was, I felt coddled, and grew closer to him through my experiences. Prior to that time of waiting, I had mainly bonded with the Lord through theology and ideas.
Looking back, I wouldn’t trade that waiting time for the world.
As St. Therese of Lisieux said, “waiting purifies.” Knowing this doesn’t necessarily make waiting easier. It doesn’t make it easier to remain socially distant from family and friends. Nevertheless, it does remind me that amidst the uncertainty and sacrifice, I have someone to trust in. God has put me in this position for a reason. This comforts me, especially in these unprecedented times, to know that waiting matters. It will bear fruit. God will use it. He does, when we let him.