I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in the Lord alone I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
More than watchmen for the morning.
– Adapted from Psalm 130
This time, like so many other times, is a time of waiting. Waiting for light; waiting for spring; waiting for political change; waiting for God’s presence. Many spiritual cultures have calendars that go beyond worldly time to recognize deep time. These periods of recognition of the Divine, present in time beyond all our worldly ways of knowing, are times of yearning to connect at that profound level with our source and the Source of Life.
In this time – December, 2019 – many of us in Western countries are in the time of waiting traditionally known as Advent. In traditional Christian culture, Lent and Advent are both times of waiting. These sacred months of waiting, yearning, and prayer lead up to holy days of celebration for God’s presence in our lives and in our world. While contemporary culture often celebrates just the holiday, without a whole month of prayer – a month! – there is great richness in reconnecting with the practice of waiting.
In Vaisnava tradition, waiting and yearning is central to our spiritual orientation. Vaisnava practice is often all about longing and separation and crying out for the Divine. The longing and waiting and crying out of the holy Advaita Acharya led to the Divine incarnation of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The parents of Sri Krishna prayed for not only years, but many lifetimes, to be His parents. The long suffering of Prahlad led to the incarnation of Nrsimhadev. The birth of Lord Rama came after long prayers by his parents to conceive children, as did the arrival of Sita Devi. When Vaisnavas celebrate holidays like Gaura Purnima, Sri Krishna Janmastami, Nrsimha Chaturdasi, and Rama Navami, we, too, remember the deep longing and prayers from the depths of the heart that preceded these Divine incarnations. In our chanting, our austerities, and our celebrations, we long for and cry out for God’s presence – Krishna’s presence – in our hearts, in our lives, and in our world.
I think that we might all find that we have something to wait for; to long for. Something in which we really need God. Whether we are longing for transformation of a personal conflict; resolution of an untenable situation; for forgiveness; for political change; for a deeply long-awaited end to racial oppression; for world peace; or for God’s presence in our lives, in our hearts, there is something in which we need God.
Each week of Advent marks another special gift for which (and with which) we wait: Peace, Love, Joy, and Faith. Perhaps these four can help us remember that conscious waiting isn’t bad (despite what the current moment of turbocapitalism wants us to think) – because what we are waiting for is so special. It’s worth it.
Whether inspired by Advent, the Solstice, the approaching New Year, or by any non-temporal inspiration, I deeply encourage and beg everyone to admit what you long for, and call out to God to be present in it. Whether you say Veni, sanctus spiritus or Krishna, Krishna, Maha-Baho! or Adonai, Adonai, there is always something to wait for; always something for which to call out.