Parenting involves a lot of waiting. First, there’s the anxious wait during the pregnancy for the big day to finally arrive. After that, there’s the waiting until the little one can talk or take a first step, waiting in a line of cars with other parents to pick them up from school, waiting for them after volleyball practice. We wait for our children to mature and begin making adult decisions, wait for them to voluntarily say thank you, or admit they were wrong. Parents wait out tantrums and teenage angst; some of you with grown children are hoping, praying and waiting for them to return to the Church.
In our household, I’m patiently waiting until one of my children actually turns off a light when leaving a room. One of these days, all my waiting is going to pay off. We wait on a daily basis for the kids to actually do their chores, put away a dirty dish and brush their teeth without being told 20 times. Some day, all of these things will happen and it will rock my world.
And then there is waiting through the monotony. I’ve read the same story to my toddler until I was blue in the face. We read it again, and again, and again. We build towers of blocks and then knock them down over, and over, and over. It takes a certain, loving patience to spend a day with a toddler.
This is why Advent and parenting are similarly fruitful spiritual disciplines. We all long for a spiritual epiphany, a shortcut to Christmas joy, but to fully appreciate it, we must wait, hope and pray. This spiritual discipline is played out throughout our lives. We long to put our sins behind us, to never struggle or doubt, to feel an intimate connection with God. Someday we’ll get there, but it takes patience.
The Heavenly Father, I can only imagine, was eager to fix our broken world from the very moment Eve bit into the forbidden fruit, but He waited. He was patient until we were ready, and once we were, nothing could hold Him back. Like the father and the prodigal son, God’s enthusiasm had Him straining to run to us. As a father myself, I’ve had to curb the impulse to immediately solve all my children’s problems. I can’t fix everything for them and, even as I support them, must wait for them to be ready, even if it breaks my heart to see them struggle. They have to find their own path in this world and make the faith their own. God shows us how to wait.
I’ll always remember reading to each of my children on my lap when they were young. The same story a million times. In just the same way, we get to go to Mass over and over again and it’s always the same. It never gets old. Each time, God waits with us, and as soon as we’re ready, He will run to us.
Father Rennier is parochial administrator of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in St. Louis. A former Anglican priest, he was ordained in 2016 under a pastoral provision for the reception of Anglicans and Episcopalians into full communion with the Catholic Church. He and his wife, Amber, have six children.