The Waiting Room
Tuesday, December 5
Rev. Adam Borneman, Director of Cohorts and Alumni, Macedonian Ministry
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? - Psalm 13:1 (NRSV)
Have you ever found yourself waiting with no end in sight?
After I finished graduate school in Boston in 2008, Jessica and I moved back to Birmingham, where we hoped to start a family. One problem - we couldn't conceive. After a year, we visited with doctors and ran some tests, all of which provided no explanation. So began our four-year journey of adoption lists, fertility clinics, tests, surgeries, frequent visits to the doctor - incredibly frustrating days when you think you're pregnant and it turns out you're not, and moments of deep sadness. Sometimes waiting seems indistinguishable from hopelessness.
The morning of Tuesday, February 18, 2014, I was a wreck. That afternoon we'd learn whether our first IVF attempt was successful. The Bible's image of Hannah praying for a child came to mind, as I was "distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly." I had never wept out of sheer anguish before, but that's exactly what happened that morning.
Later that day, a joyful and tear-filled Jessica told me that we were pregnant, leaving me speechless. It was one of those moments of relief in which you realized that you had been carrying around far more stress and anxiety than you thought. Eight months later, our first child, Maggie, was born.
We're not alone in our experience of infertility. And there are all sorts of other experiences in life that fall into this category of "waiting with no end in sight." Chronic illness, addiction, poverty, and depression are just a few examples. What's most difficult about these experiences of waiting is that they are bereft of anticipation and expectation, notions which imply benchmarks, helping us to gauge whether we've waited too long or not long enough. Waiting without expectation or anticipation can leave us hopeless.
In retrospect, I don't recall any ecstatic moments of transcendence or miraculous intervention that cured us of our impatience. But I can see that God surrounded us with a community of Jesus' disciples who fostered a space for vulnerability and transparency and joined us in the psalmist's plea, "How long, O Lord?!" God used this community of hope to embrace our hopelessness, to remind us that sometimes waiting is precisely what faithfulness looks like, and to proclaim that even when we think there's no end in sight, Christ remains both the beginning and end of everything.
Loving God, in our anxiety, grant us peace. In our restlessness, grant us patience. In our waiting, grant us hope. And in all things, grant us intimate communion with Christ and one another by the power of your Spirit. Amen.
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