Well aware of my deep love for LEGOs, this year my girlfriend gave me a LEGO Advent Calendar. Each of its 24 little cardboard doors hides a small set of pieces, which so far have formed a Christmas tree, a fireplace, a table, some presents, six minifigures, and a grill. Being doubly thoughtful, Paige had also snuck in a note for each day of the Advent calendar, helping her to be present during the season despite our long distance.
This is the first Advent calendar I’ve ever had, and so far it has been excellent training for the season. Like (I suspect) most people with an Advent calendar, I want to open all the doors now. I want all the LEGOs! I want all the notes! I have no desire to wait. My struggle with the Advent calendar has reminded me of one of my favorite Queen songs, the appropriately titled “I Want It All.”
There, Freddie Mercury sings passionately of his drive and his zeal to live his life now, to have the future now:
It ain’t much I’m asking, I heard him say,
Gotta find me a future move out of my way,
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now,
I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now
He goes on to describe himself as “a man with a one track mind” with “so much to do in one life time.” The song nicely encapsulates the desire to have it now. There’s no room for waiting, for anticipating, for being patient. There’s just the desire for satisfaction, for gratification. He reaches forward, hoping to pull the future into his present.
It’s a sentiment I’m well acquainted with. But I become so focused on grabbing what’s next that I lose enjoyment of what is now. And what is next eventually suffers the same fate. On some level, I keep grabbing at a future, not to quash my enjoyment of the present, but to suppress the anxiety I feel in the now. The anxiety of being uncertain, incomplete, not yet established, still developing.
Today is Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent. In today’s readings we see James exhort us to
Be patient, brothers and sisters,
until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
being patient with it
until it receives the early and the late rains.
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand.
- (James 5:7-8)
We are to wait, but we are promised that
The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
- (Isaiah 35:1-2)
The future is promised us: a kingdom to come, a relationship to be fulfilled, an opportunity to see face to face. We are called to rejoice for the Lord who is near at hand, but to be patient until he arrives.
Still, I wrestle with the anxiety of waiting. And I think that’s ok. I remind myself of a prayer by Teilhard de Chardin, which, though not explicitly about Advent, sums up beautifully how I feel this season. He prays
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
Ultimately, Teilhard encourages us to
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
I may want it all, and I may want it now, but I ought to trust in God during this season (and many others) of waiting.