On Waiting

Several years ago, I was given the task of explaining the liturgical year to the second graders in my church – in about ten minutes. Since that’s something which many adults could use a refresher on, I was stumped about how to translate and consolidate this down to the seven-year-old comprehension level, and then I struck on it: colors.

Surely, they would have noticed the colors draped across the ministers’ shoulders, or across the communion table and pulpit: the white and the green and the purple, the one day of bright red for Pentecost. White was for days and seasons of celebration, green for ordinary time, and then purple was especially important. Purple, I told the kids, was our waiting color. When they saw purple all over the church, it meant we were waiting, getting ready, either for Christmas or Easter.

At the very least, the lesson stuck with me, so that every time I spot purple clothes or vestments or decorations, I think: our waiting color.

As an impatient person, I like purple a little less now, because of that ever-present reminder to wait. To be patient. And it bugs me especially during Lent, a time when we are not just waiting for Easter Sunday, but for springtime and warm days, for new life budding up from the ground and bubbling up in us. During Advent, I know I am waiting, but the Christmas cookies are here now (no waiting required), and there’s always so much to do before the 25th that I scarcely notice the wait.

But Lent…Lent is bare, empty, stripped down, and waiting. Bare like the tree branches and the brown, brittle lawns in my neighborhood. Bare of snow, but also of bloom.

I want to sprint through Lent, I want to get to Easter now, but Lent is long. Six weeks long, and with that kind of timeline, my only option is to wait, patiently. To travel slowly and deliberately, to listen for what God is trying to tell me in this season; what God is teaching me in the in-between.

This year, it’s a lesson about simplicity, about having, doing, being less; and savoring it all. About not rushing between things, or on to the next thing. About the grace and beauty I can find when I am really, fully present to my life.

And I’m a slow learner. So I’m coming to be grateful that Lent is long, and God is patient, and I have the gift of time to learn deeply and well.

Jen Christianson