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Waiting–Not So easy

  • Posted on Nov 30, 2009

Monday, November 20, 2009
First Monday of Advent

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.
from Matthew 21:1-11, Daily Office, Year Two reading

In Advent, we begin another year of Daily Office readings. It seems a bit strange to begin with a scene more familiar to another part of the liturgical and calendar year–Palm Sunday and Spring. But as I read this selection from Matthew more closely, I believe that it does have quite a bit to do with the concept of Advent waiting.

One of my books for Advent pondering is The Meaning is in the Waiting by Paula Gooder (Paraclete Press, 2008). Here’s a gem about how hard it is for us to wait—especially when there is a problem just waiting to be solved. Here’s how Gooder puts it:

Imagine you have a broken washing machine. You call the washing machine repair service and wait, and wait, and wait, but no one comes. In your desperation, you get out the tool kit and attempt to solve the problem yourself. Now you may be a brilliant repairer of washing machines, but I know that I would end up with a pile of parts on the floor, no washing machine, and the need to go out and buy a new one.” (Gooder, p. 34)

In our reading from Matthew, how did the disciples follow Jesus’ instruction? If I were one of those disciples charged with finding the colt and donkey, I bet that if the donkey and colt didn’t present themselves immediately, I would make my own plan to find a donkey and colt. One that I think would be easier, better, more efficient, faster.

One morning in South Africa, the children and I went out to the garage to get in the car to go to school. We piled in the car. I put the key in the ignition and turned the key. Nothing. Yes, you know that feeling. No sound. The battery was dead. My mind went into quick thinking mode. I wanted to get the children to school and then I had errands that I wanted to get done that day. I didn’t want to wait for a mechanic to bring a battery. So, I had a brainy idea. The car was perched in the garage at an elevated level. What if I pushed the car backwards in neutral until it hit the garage ramp—as it picked up speed–going backwards–I could jump it into gear. I’d seen it done going forward. Couldn’t it work backwards? I told the children to Stand Back. I got in the car. I kept the driver’s side door open a bit with one leg and foot out. I pushed with my outside foot against the concrete. The car started to move. Then it really started to move as it hit the garage ramp. WHAP! A horrible sound of crunching metal. Before I knew it, the car door had been pulled off its hinges. I was unable to close it as the car picked up speed as it passed the sides of the garage door. Luckily, I had gotten my leg inside the car or it might be dangling too. I somehow engaged the emergency brake. I looked around. Jack and Anna were staring at me, the car, the situation –dumbfounded. Finally, one of them said, “Oh-Oh, Mommy!”
Well, I had a lot of explaining to do since this was a church car. I was without a car for a week or two. Rather than wait for someone to come and replace the battery, I had made the situation much worse. Why couldn’t I have waited for a morning? It’s a good family story now. That morning, it wasn’t very funny. My impatience got the best of me.

Waiting….it’s hard for humans to do. What’s your story of impatient problem solving gone wrong?