I was so excited for Advent this year. It’s a season that I always looked over growing up; in terms of the liturgical seasons, I was always more of a Lent girl. The feels of Lent—the sorrow for my faults, the compassion for Christ’s suffering, the joy of His coming victory—were always more real than those of Advent. Advent was all about “waiting,” which was always too abstract and lofty for me growing up.
But now that I’m more mature in my faith, I was stoked out of my mind once this Advent started. I understood what the Israelites must have been feeling as they waited for this King who would make everything better. I wondered how Mary must have felt as she waited for her Son to finally come, how nervous she must have been, if she ever wondered if scandal would befall her and Joseph once people caught wind of her pregnancy. The theme of waiting that accompanies Advent is so rich and beautiful and I wanted to savor it as much as possible this time around. I wanted to do something special with my prayer routine. I signed up for email reflections from one of my favorite Catholic bishops in hopes of using them for prayer and growth. I was excited to do something special with the “O Antiphons” that the Church prays with in the last few days leading up to Christmas.
But Advent is now over, and not much of that happened. I struggled to prayerfully reflect on—never mind even just read—those email reflections. I tried to include a “Little Advent Action,” inspired by my beloved St. Therese of Lisieux, in my days, but the days I remembered to perform those actions were few and far between. Advent was a bit of a bust this year.
At least, it was in that I didn’t do what I had hoped to. God has a tendency to show up in His own way, though, regardless of my plans.
My relationship with Christ lately has been marked by phases, usually lasting a few weeks or even a few months, where one particular theme or image seems to come up in my prayer life a lot or seems to be the main thing driving my relationship with Him. Most recently, that thing has been a deep awareness of my sin. I’m a sinner. And despite my best efforts, despite realizing and hating my sins, I can’t seem to stop committing the same dang sins. My weakness is sometimes overwhelming to me, to the point that I question if I’ll ever reach the heights of holiness that I feel called to climb to. I know that perfection will never come in this life. The greatest saints were still sinners in their earthly life, after all! But I’m trying, trying to stop myself from making the same mistakes when temptations arise, trying to recognize habits in me that need to change. But I keep falling, and it’s making me impatient. Though I can’t be perfect, I want to. I want to be better, for myself, for the One I love, for everyone I encounter. And it’s just not happening.
I’ve brought this to prayer so many times. I’ve begged Jesus, Mary, and the saints to help me grow and to make me better. But alas, improvement isn’t coming quickly.
I think it’s timely that one Advent day, while bringing this to prayer, I heard that darn “w” word whispered to my heart.
“Wait. My daughter, wait.”
It seems counter-intuitive to be asked to wait for greater holiness. Shouldn’t I be frantically trying RIGHT NOW to sin less? Shouldn’t I be impatient for the day that I act more out of love and less out of selfishness? It didn’t make much sense when I heard Jesus tell me to wait on that.
Though my Advent prayers didn’t look the way I may have wanted them to, I learned this Advent that waiting takes on a variety of forms. It’s not this abstract, distant thing that we try to imagine when we think of the Israelites in their wait for rescue, for a Messiah. It’s not just us waiting to welcome Christ when He comes again on the day that only the Father knows. It’s so painfully immediate and real. It’s waiting for a break when it seems that life won’t stop crashing into us. It’s pleading with God for proof that He’s real when He seems to have gone silent. It means waiting when waiting doesn’t make sense. But He promises us that our waiting will be rewarded, we will find if we keep seeking, the door will be opened to us if we keep knocking.
So with hopeful expectation I must wait for the day that my sins loosen their grip on me even just the slightest bit. I understand that I’ll always be a sinner. That won’t change. Ever. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try not to be. It only means that I can’t become discouraged by it, and that I must be patient in my progress.