Maybe there will be a miscarriage. Maybe the child will be ill or damaged. Maybe nothing will happen, and I have made this all up. The demons slink in and taunt, harass, confuse, lie, and distort. Feeding on our fear, they float in our minds like bloated carcasses.
Impatience, fueled by fear and lack of faith, has resulted in many an aborted Christ child. Dreams, wrenched too soon from the womb of God’s providence, die torn and bleeding in the back rooms of our souls. Fearing that the Promised One cannot be trusted to save us from ourselves, we join the tribe of those who attempt to seize the kingdom by violence.
Yet the promise always comes in the context of threats, writes biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann.
The land of promise is never an eagerly waiting vacuum anticipating Israel. Nor is it an unambiguous arena for faith. It is always filled with Canaanites. That is how the promise comes… It is the very land of promise, the purpose of the whole journey of faith, which causes the failure of nerve. . . .
God’s people always want to settle for something short of promises, because promises fulfilled remind Israel how vulnerable it is, how exposed it is, and how precarious it all is. Promiseless existence is safer. The Bible knows from the beginning that promises are always kept in the midst of threats. Tables are always prepared “in the presence of my enemies”and if one would eat at the table, one must eat in the presence of enemies. The land is precisely for those and only for those who sense their precariousness and act in their vulnerability. (The Land, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1977, p 67-69)
Threats, in whatever form they come, tend to scare the wits out of us. We feel like puny grasshoppers compared to these giants. Possibly the greatest threat, according to Jesus, is the failure to believe, or the lack of faith. There is that time before the pregnancy shows and no one can tell what is inside, and even after one has something visible to point to, like a vision, a possibility, the first faint glimmerings of a new idea, when the actual outcome is shrouded in mystery, and the course of the life of the new one to be born is unknown to us. So we must nourish the invisible, the inklings, the suggestions, and the voice of some ethereal visitor who whispered something wondrous and unbelievable.
Whom could you tell? What would they think? Maybe your lover will understand and give his support. Maybe God will intervene in a dream. Maybe a wise old friend, whose own promise leaps in recognition of your promise, maybe the old cousin will understand.
But there is a long time of hours, days, months, and even years –year upon year, when much is hidden and only you sing in your heart of what is to come, the gift you will offer. And what to do until then?
Fall back on praise and being. Notice the leaf in the redbud tree outside your window, curled and brown crisp in the sun. Stand at sundown as the earth grows still and silence creeps into your heart like a cat and curls up and purrs.
“Blessed is she who believed that the word of the Lord would be fulfilled,” announces the cousin. Blessed are those who believe in the glad and amazing truth that sings in their hearts, trusting with Mary and her Son that all will be well and that they are highly favored.
Watch for the last installment, Part Four, of this series on waiting, The Surrender, coming soon.
This post adapted from the author’s book, Letters from the Holy Ground – Seeing God Where You Are, Loretta (Ross-Gotta) F. Ross, Sheed & Ward, 2000.