Rachel Conrad Carlson
Waiting in the Dark
I can safely say patience is not my strength. Just yesterday morning, I had one of those blow up moments as a parent that can be hard to forgive yourself for. She was acting like any three year old would during a long and overstimulating holiday weekend, and I let her behavior get the best of me. In the few years that I’ve been a parent, there are times–more than I’d like to admit–when I can feel the stress of constant mothering building up, and if I don’t recognize my need and take a purposeful break, then boom… out comes the impatience and anger. Two traits I never want to model for my daughters. Yesterday, I felt every ounce of my own humanity, my own sinfulness, and my own need for salvation.
Today’s reading from Psalm 85:8 has us repeating, “Show us Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation.” And today, my own heart echoes that refrain. Yes, please Lord, show me your love even though I know I don’t deserve it. Yes Lord, please oh please grant us your salvation. Save me from my own sin, my own failures, and show your love to my family. Show your love to my friends who are grieving, my neighbors who are lonely, my city that is suffering, my country that is broken, my world that is crying out for rescue. Please grant us all the salvation that only You can offer, Lord.
Advent begins today, and a major theme of this season is hoping while we wait. Hoping before the prayer gets answered, hoping before the prophecy is fulfilled, hoping before the light breaks through the enveloping dark. And hoping requires patience. It requires sitting in our need and waiting for rescue. It requires daring to believe that our present reality will not be our constant future.
In today’s Old Testament reading from Isaiah 2, the Jewish people teach us how to wait with hope over an incredible span of time. Isaiah prophecies to the nation of Israel about 700 years before Christ, at a time when Judah had separated from Jerusalem and turned away from God, worshiping idols and rebelling against God’s decrees for Israel. He speaks to a people burned by division, who completely disagree with each other on how to live, who long for unity, but can’t really see a way that it could happen. Sound familiar?
Isaiah writes, “In days to come, the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: "Come, let us climb the LORD's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths."
Isaiah likely lived in Jerusalem and was sharing the prophecy that he received from God in a vision with Israelites living in the city. Isaiah speaks to how God will rescue them all in “the days to come.” “All nations shall stream towards” God’s house and will seek out God's instructions so they can all “walk in his paths” together. Imagine how much the Jewish people longed for that prophecy to come true, and yet how improbable it likely sounded to them. The rest of Isaiah’s vision goes on to speak of the coming of Jesus our Savior and how the grace He offers will allow all of His people to be unified in Him. Yet, it took 700 years until Isaiah’s prophecy came true. Seven hundred. And the Jewish people still believed. They held out hope in promises like these that soon felt like ancient prophecies. By the time Jesus came to earth in that holy stable, how long ago and far off, how impractical and naive these promises and prophecies must have felt. But they still waited, and they still hoped.
From our perspective 2000 years after the arrival of Jesus, the fact that the Savior came as a tiny babe to rescue us usually feels like ancient history. It’s so easy to concentrate only on the main event, and completely overlook the hundreds of years of waiting and questioning and doubting the Jewish people endured as they practiced remarkable acts of faith
As we enter the Advent season, I invite you to join me in the waiting period. Whatever you need patience for, whatever you’re hoping to be rescued from, may we willingly choose to cling to the thin thread of hope that allows us to hold out until God shows Himself. Because as the babe in the manger reminds us, God always fulfills his promises, and we are never waiting in vain.