Updated: May 29, 2021
Every time I phone home, Dad asks if I’m coming home tomorrow. I realize this is mostly the result of the trauma, but there is also something wrong with me being so far away. It’s as though I am supposed to be home. And so, patiently, he waits for me to come. Although the reality is that he has no control of the situation, and his only option is to wait.
Advent has been a more difficult season than usual this year. It is supposed to be a season of waiting, but also one of anticipation, of light, of hope. And yet, while waiting, many of us are simultaneously carrying our sorrows. Waiting can be so difficult.
One man waits for God’s call for him to return to ministry to be fulfilled.
One woman waits to recover from a surgery that is only the beginning of her cancer treatment.
My family waits for my dad’s memories to return permanently, for him to be made whole.
And all of creation waits…
Sometimes I feel that this is the burden of the church. We know that we are broken, so what do we have to offer to the rest of world? We have heard that following Jesus is supposed to bring a life that is filled with joy and peace and hope. I suspect that is why some of us so easily give in to the temptation to pretend, to act out the lives that we think we are supposed to have. But a life of pretense is not what God has called us to when he called us to follow him. He has called us to something real.
I have wrestled with this when I spend time with friends who haven’t found a reason to believe in God yet. They know if I am being fake, and I don’t want to pretend around them, but the reality is that I struggle with God sometimes. I don’t want to wait. And I don’t know why we should have to wait. I know that God is good, that he is faithful, that is everything he’s promised, but honestly, sometimes he takes too long.
On the first Sunday of Advent, we sang a song which invited us to run into God’s arms, while acknowledging that even as we come, we are still waiting.
Bear your cross as you wait for the crown. Tell the world of the treasure you’ve found.
from O Come to the Altar
This caught my attention because too often our “come to Jesus” songs seem to say that everything will be different when we come. And this only makes us feel more guilty that we are still broken, we are still hurting, and we are still waiting. When we come to God, even while we are broken and hurting and waiting (for something that is guaranteed, by the way), something has already changed. And yet, what is it that has changed?
When I was just out of college, I went through another difficult season. I had my heart broken for the first time. I remember being unable to sleep at night and just trying to hold on until 4:30 am when I knew Dad would be waking up. I called, and through my tears, explained what had happened. Then I asked if I could come home. He said, of course, I could, so I drove straight to his work where I rode in his truck all day while he made his deliveries.
Nothing changed about my situation. I still had to return to a life that was different than I had hoped. Dad couldn’t make me suddenly happy about what I had lost. He couldn’t give it back to me. But he was present. He listened. He didn’t judge me. He just loved me. As much as I wanted everything to be different, what I needed was simply to be home.
When God calls us to come, he may not change a single thing about our circumstances. Sometimes he does step in, but many times, nothing happens. We are still sick, poor, lonely, and yet…
And yet… We are heard. We are loved. We are home.
And although this isn’t what most of us are hoping Jesus will do for us, it may be the very thing we need the most – to be home.