December 11, 2017

Hopeful Waiting

All my ministry has been bilingual ministry. My whole Christian life has been lived in both languages, since before my baptism at age 20. English and Spanish are woven so deeply together in my faith that they have become difficult to untangle. In Advent, however, I know that my spirituality is shaped in great part by a simple grammatical fact of Spanish.

The word for “to wait” is the same as the word for “to hope.” Esperar.

In Spanish the two words are distinguished by context and usage, but also related. Waiting is tinged with hope through the linguistic connection and hope becomes in part an exercise in patience, an awareness that more is still to come. That is how it works in my mind, anyway, through the lens of a first-language English speaker who has nonetheless discovered quite a few things for the very first time in Spanish over the last thirty years.

This year seems like a good one for hopeful waiting and waitful hoping, in full recognition that the one translates elegantly and the other impossibly awkwardly.

As we enter Advent in our congregations, many if not most of our churches face an uncertain future. We hope and pray and work hard for good things and new life and we don’t know much about what that would be like even if we were successful beyond our wildest dreams. We have to rely on hope, on more to be revealed.

As 21st century humans in an affluent part of the world, we live in a zone of instant gratification, vast quantities of information, entertainment and merchandise literally at our fingertips. Many of us spend less time waiting in line than ever before in our lives. Movie theaters and Black Friday sales alike empty out in favor of e-alternatives. Spending lots of time waiting has become one more sign of being on the losing end of the distribution of power and means.

As we grow accustomed to gloomy forecasts about the future of the church, the country and the planet, we may need to begin re-learning hope this Advent. As we get used to everything zooming toward us at lightening speed, we may also need to re-learn the gift of waiting. Here’s to hopeful waiting and waitful hoping. El Adviento te espera.