Put me in a line, a really long one, like the one at the DPS or for returning Christmas gifts, and I’ll do fine. Put me in the middle of life, on the other hand, like the one my skin and bones currently occupy, and I don’t know if I necessarily do so well.
I’ve been out of college for a little over two months now, working retail, living with my parents, driving a borrowed car, waiting to get on to the next stage of my life. It’s much better than being a punk teen again (I wish I could tell my eighteen-year-old self no, don’t go to the prom), but there’s a sense in which I feel as though someone has put me on a treadmill in front of a picture out of a Roadrunner cartoon—if I can just move forward, I’ll be able to go through. And so I run. I run until my legs fall off, waiting until I can touch that light on the end of the tunnel, even though I subconsciously fear that if I do finally reach that horizon, I’ll smack my face on the painted brick wall. And yet I’m supposed to trust that that won’t happen.
Hope and faith are the burden of waiting we have to carry, this unreal expectation that yes, we will carry on, the world will be better. And yet Paul says that if we wait, we wait with patience—such a contradiction, and all the more difficult as a result. My waiting is nothing compared to that of the planets’—“All creation groans, awaiting our redemption as sons.” At least I haven’t been reduced to groans yet. Tears, yes. But groans, no. Not yet. The weight of it isn’t so heavy on me yet. I wait for a future; creation waits for God. Maybe I should follow its lead.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits
Like watchmen wait for the morning,
Like watchmen wait for the morning.
I’ve always been terribly aware of time, to the point that I can’t wear a watch or else I’ll be looking at it every moment. This is why, of course, the liturgical year appeals to me so much; it’s a marker of time, a chronological standing stone that makes me remember Jesus.
Right now we’re in the middle of what is traditionally called Ordinary Time—so called because the Sundays are called by their ordinal numbers, e.g. the seventh Sunday after Pentecost, what have you. But it’s also ordinary in the sense that no major church holidays are going on, at least not in Protestantism; we’re not celebrating Jesus’ birth or death or resurrection right now, but rather the everyday life of the church. The fact that this is the longest season of the church year says something, I think. This is where we live our lives, the normal and the ordinary, alternating with the briefer periods of bursting celebration.
Most of us don’t like to think about this; most of us want to seek out the bigger moments like all those Bible fellows had on mountains and in battlefields, forgetting that the rest of the time Moses had to carry an entire country on his back through a desert for forty years, that David had his sin breaking his bones for most of his adult life. And so it is with us. It’s heavy, this waiting for Jesus to come and make things right, make us right. But His yoke is easy; His burden is light. In the end, we all carry the weight of glory; everything else is extra baggage.
At the end of our ordinary days, Emmanuel will come. Until then, we wait, and we groan.