It has taken me over a year to begin to comprehend this spiritual season of waiting in my life. I am no longer living in the “valley of the shadow of death” so the many Bible verses that speak about God’s comfort no longer soothe my soul as powerfully as they used to. In fact, when the reflection I was reading tonight asked “why do we have to suffer?” I was tempted to stop reading. I have struggled with that question for so long that I want to move on for a while and just let that question exist unanswered. I am not suffering now and I don’t want to explore suffering again in the near future.
At the same time, I have trouble embracing the Bible verses about joy and thanksgiving. I am not saying that I am not thankful, because I certainly have an incredible amount to be thankful for. Instead, what I mean to say is that everything I feel is in relation to the child that I am waiting for and, after so many losses and difficulties, I remain afraid that God might make me wait for him even longer than I hope for. Even more terrifying is the thought that He could choose to use the weak hope that I do have to send me back into a period of suffering. However wrong it may be, this makes it difficult to praise and thank God with abandon. So this waiting time is challenging and it results in my soul waiting for God in a state of apprehension about what is to come and confusion about what lies before me.
As I sought solace in Bible passages that fit this season of my life, I came across Psalm 130 verse 6: “I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” When I think about the night watchmen of Biblical times, I imagine that they must have been anxious for the darkness of night to disappear and eager for the light of day to reign. Ezekiel 33 talks about the great responsibility that watchmen had to warn the people when danger approached. It would have been difficult to carry out their task in the complete darkness of a world without electricity. The watchmen must have felt shivers of relief as dawn approached and the first glimmers of light began to take away the sensation that they were peering over the wall into an abyss. But until the morning had fully broken, some apprehension must have remained. The dim light might play tricks with their eyes and make it difficult to rightly interpret what was going on outside the city walls. They must have strained their eyes, trying to see what was coming. When they sensed movement, they must have been filled with frustration and doubt: “It was just a gazelle. No, surely it was too big for that. Yes, it must have been a gazelle, an enemy spy would not linger at such a distance. But what if it is a spy and I don’t blow my horn to alert the people? Yet, what if it is just a gazelle and I wake everyone up for nothing?” It must have been such a relief when light finally saturated the earth around them and they could see clearly and rest with the knowledge that there would be no stealthy nighttime attacks during their watch.
My soul is like the watchmen who waited in the first flickers of dawn’s dim light. It is beginning to see what is coming but can’t be sure. It is waiting for God to bless it with His joy and glory. Today, for me, it is hoping that God’s sunlight will come in the form of a healthy little boy who will grow up to love and bless Him.
Yet, we all are like the waiting watchmen, aren’t we? We are waiting for God’s presence to regain its rightful place in the Church and for healing to begin. We are waiting for God’s justice for the poor and marginalized. We are waiting for God’s love to bind us together as brothers and sisters and to erase the hatred and hostility that poisons our relationships. We are waiting for God to anoint us with the knowledge that answers our thousands of questions “why?” We are waiting to be forgiven for the sins that bring us so much grief and shame that we become consumed with keeping them concealed. Some of us are waiting for God’s presence to be real enough to us that we can truly believe. Mostly, though, all of creation is waiting for the day when God’s kingdom is realized and sin and death are not just defeated but eradicated. We are waiting to see God face-to-face.
While many Bible verses might not fully resonate with us as we wait, the psalmist had one final thing to say to all of us watchmen: “…put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.” Psalm 130:7-8