Saturday, December 12, 2009

On the Subject of Waiting

The Season of Light
A "Light Bulb" Experience on What Advent Is All About

I've heard many a pastor and/or theologian speak at length on the liturgical season of Advent, the two-thirds of December meant to prepare us for the celebration of Christmas. Nothing quite puts a handle on it. I had an “Aha!” moment this morning that comes closer than anything else.

About six weeks ago, my wife was going about her daily work – homeschooling our son and keeping our home in order – when a maintenance worker knocked on the door of our apartment. He had come unannounced to check out our bathroom, most notably the bathtub. The maintenance worker didn't speak much English, and my wife understands very little Spanish; but the gist of what transpired indicated that there was a problem with water seeping from the tub enclosure somehow and dripping through into the apartment below. The worker put some caulk around places where he thought it was needed, and then told my wife that sometime soon more major repair work would have to be done.

My wife phoned me at work right after the maintenance guy left. What was going on? We weren't experiencing any water problems – at least not with the tub. So I placed a call to our leasing office and confirmed what was happening. Yes, the bathroom would have to go through this major repair work. It was to be done sometime over the course of the next week or so.

We made some contingency plans. As we get older, it's important not to be far from a working bathroom, or at the very least some way to flush wastes from the body as God designed it. We were assured we'd have access to a bathroom in a vacant apartment while work was being done.

And so we waited. The ten days passed, and no strange knocks at the door. Three weeks passed and we were still waiting.

At the beginning of the month, I had to visit the leasing office to pay the rent. While I was there, I brought up the subject. Maybe things had improved and the repairs weren't needed after all. I wanted to get some more information I could give my wife. Yes, the work was still needed and would be done. Okay – just give us a heads-up so we're not half-dressed should they arrive early in the morning.

At the beginning of this week, roughly a month after we heard work was to be done, the contractors came to do their own inspection, to determine how much work was needed. The work was to begin early the next morning. Yet there was still one 'gotcha' – the weather. A major winter storm was coming through, and it might delay the workers from showing up. As promised, though, they arrived and work began. I left for work shortly after they started. When I got home they were still there. The big work was done, but someone would be back the next day to finish.
We now have a very nice looking tub enclosure – one that brightens up the room and makes sound bounce everywhere. (The old enclosure was formica or plastic sheeting, the new one is ceramic tiled.) We should no longer have to worry about dripping on our neighbors below. Also – any material that could have been rotting or collecting mold due to water damage was removed, thus making our little corner of the world a better, safer place for us as well as our neighbors.

When we first heard the news we felt bad because we had no way of knowing we were making life more difficult for our neighbors. We wanted very much for the repairs to take place quickly, and the waiting didn't make things any easier. But the assurance that we weren't forgotten and the workers would come made those contingency plans doable.

We really do feel out-of-sorts when the consequences of our actions have been harmful to others. We might have been held accountable and unable to offer recompense. But help was sought, and help came. It involved preparation and readiness, for it was uncertain when the workers would come. And when the work was completed, we are left with something much better than it was; not only for ourselves, but for those around us who might not even know we had work done.

Advent is much like this episode from daily life. We have hurt, and are hurting. We come to an understanding of how what we do affects others. We have hope and believe that a broken world will be made whole. And we wait. And we watch. And we are as ready as we can be. When the Messiah comes, we will be interested in the work he does. And we will remember his ways, for in his wake, a new and brighter creation remains, one that belongs to everyone, everywhere.

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