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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Susan Hanson

Friday, December 10

And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.
—Psalm 39:7

Few of us are good at waiting. Berating ourselves for picking the “wrong” line at the bank or supermarket, we fidget impatiently, as if our nervous energy will speed the process along. We chafe at the thought of “wasting” time, of engaging in nothing productive. With our to-do lists weighing heavily on our minds, we consider just walking away, leaving our unfinished errand for a less chaotic day.

It never comes.

In A Geography of Time, social psychologist Robert Levine looks at how the passage of time is gauged outside the Western world. In doing so, he cites the experience of one of his students, Salvatore Niyonzima, from the Central African nation of Burundi. There, Niyonzima says, appointments are made not by looking at the clock, but by referring to some regularly occurring event. 

For example, a farmer might say, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning when the cows are going out to grazing” or “when the cows are going to drink in the stream.” This is what’s known as “event time,” Levine points out, the natural unfolding of life.

Advent is for us exactly this sort of time.

As any mother knows, there’s no rushing the birth of a child; nine months, more or less, will be consumed by waiting, by preparing for what is to come. Biology aside, to forgo this transitional time would be to force a change we aren’t ready to make. Who is this new presence in our lives? And how has it changed who we are? 

During the four weeks of Advent, we, too, are preparing for a birth. Year after year, we sense the stirring of the Holy One within us, and in our waiting, we are subtly yet fundamentally changed.

O God, as I wait for your coming once again, give me patience to let my life unfold in its own time and in its own way.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2004.