Why We Must Wait For The Lord
In the age of the selfie and instant gratification, we may lose the patience to discover God within us — but there is a remedy, as FR RALPH DE HAHN explains in his Advent reflection
In this age of acceleration, we boast of progress and our enormous strides in the fields of technology and space travel.
It would appear that we are not prepared to wait for the Lord for something, or somebody, greater.
We are beginning to trust mankind and its brainpower more than an invisible god.
All the while, we are already in hot waters by slowly losing our individuality and personal dignity by becoming mere numbers and statistics.
In truth, we are failing to appreciate the inestimable value of the human soul, that inner sanctuary where we can actually meet God, since we are created by him and for him.
Consider Psalm 139: “It was you who created my inmost self, put me together in my mother’s womb…I thank you for all these mysteries and for the wonder of myself.”
Indeed, we may deeply wonder over the uniqueness of this soul. But that demands waiting!
Furthermore, it is only in this inner sanctuary that we will ever discover our true selves — not the person I firmly believe I am, but the person God created me to be.
This process of becoming, of moving from fantasy into reality, this honest seeking for our full human maturity — the real me — is no quick overnight solution. There’s no shortcut; it will demand of us to allow God time and space to do for us, individually, what only he is able to accomplish.
We call that waiting for the Lord. St Paul put it like this: “If we hope for what we do not see, we must wait for it with patience” (Rom 8:25).
And Proverbs counsels: “Waiting produces new life and wholeness” (8:35).
A history of waiting
All holy Scripture — Old and New Testament — records a multitude of stories that testify to the fruitfulness of waiting.
The great Jewish prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah and all the people of Israel waited for centuries to witness the coming of their promised Messiah.
Noah waited patiently for the flood to recede. Daniel waited through the night in the Lion’s den. The Israelites waited for a Moses to free them from the Egyptian slavery. Jacob waited for Rebecca’s love. The Israelites waited 70 years before their return to holy Jerusalem.
And a consecrated virgin waited for God to declare his will for her — then Gabriel spoke!
Simeon and Anna prayed daily in the Temple, yearning for his coming. Elizabeth, once barren, waited for her miracle baby — “What will this child turn out to be” (Lk 1:66) — and Zechariah waited for the release of his tongue.
And all the world waited for the proclamation of John the Baptist that the Lamb of God had come. He was already there!
In the parable, a loving, most forgiving father waited for the return of his prodigal son. And in Jesus’ life there is the beautiful story of the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, who sat day and night on the pavement, waiting for that Light of the world to pass by and remove his darkness (Mk 10:46).
Mary and the apostles waited for God’s extraordinary response to the empty tomb. And so we also wait!
In search of ourselves
For here we are searching the mystery of our unique selves. Being seduced by this fast-moving world, we create (and are content with) a false image of self, never the true self — not realising that I am far greater than the person I have created.
St Francis of Assisi knew the truth: “What I am in the eyes of God, that I am—and nothing more, nothing less!”
We are so conditioned by outside influences, and not prepared to listen to the crying needs of the soul—”My God I am seeking you, my soul is thirsting for you” (Ps 63).
What we must expect from this period of waiting is that necessary transformation.
Yes, the soul is waiting for our attention, so to speak, waiting for us to cast out and leave behind all the baggage that hinders our becoming fully human, fully Christian and our true self.
“We are building up the body of Christ until we become the perfect man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself,” St Paul told the Ephesians (4:13).
It is necessary to humbly confess to our clinging to the old self, that fear of change, that fear of being “different” to this fast-moving express train we dare to board!
We will fail dismally if we allow ourselves to live the illusion.
Waiting is not a waste of time; it is doing something positive and creative—and that is the work of God’s Holy Spirit, when we allow him time and space.
“I waited and waited for the Lord,” says Psalm 40, “and at last he heard my cry for help!”
The Power within us, and ever behind us, is far greater than the task before us. We need to wait. Give God a chance.
The Spirit life is never static. “The Spirit blows wherever it pleases; you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going,” (Jn 3:8).
The evangelist Matthew advises: “We need to believe and trust God’s wisdom and merciful providence” (6:25).
Get rid of dead matter
There is a lot of dead matter to be expelled before the coast is clear.
Quite suddenly the Bible story comes to mind when an enthusiastic believer cried: “I will follow you, Lord, but I must first go home to bury the dead.” Jesus’ response is shattering yet meaningful: “Leave the dead to bury the dead—come, follow me”(Mt 8:21).
We have a lot to unlearn, and to start afresh. What really stands in our way is the ego.
The Book of Proverbs speaks on this subject: “I hate pride and arrogance, wickedness and a lying mouth (8:13). And later: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (16:18).
The egocentric person will ever live with a false image of self and never permit that waiting time to root out the garbage, so as to express the beauty of God’s image in the soul.
“As the deer yearns for running waters so my soul yearns for you my God…the God of life” (Ps 42).
We are off-centre when we are self-centred. We need to be in touch with Reality and not paint an unreal and colourful world which will ultimately bring deep disillusionment.
Time is such a precious commodity, yet we need to wait. Faith is that fearless search for Truth; and to know the real self is supreme wisdom.
But even wisdom will demand faith, trust and waiting!
Paul, the courageous apostle and proud Pharisee, had his ego crushed by his wonderful conversion on the road to Damascus. Having discovered the truth, he boldly declared: “It is not I who lives…it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
He suddenly came to understand the beauty of his soul wrapped in God’s love and mercy.
Later he would declare: “Nothing can separate us from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus my Lord” (Rom 8:38).
That is the experience of one who waits on the Lord and permits God’s divine power to make us the person he created us to be.
“Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that do not see, and ears that do not hear. Are you still without perception?”(Mk 8:18-21)
To wait for the Lord, believing — that is all he asks of us. The rest he will do.
Fr Ralph de Hahn is a priest of the archdiocese of Cape Town.