Adoration and the Art of Waiting
“Are we there yet?” Anyone who’s ever traveled anywhere with children knows firsthand how impatient they become on the journey, and the farther the journey the harder the wait for the little ones. This is especially true when they have an idea of where they’re headed. Tell the kids they're going to the dentist and they never ask when they’ll get there, but tell them you’re going to Disney World and you start getting “Are we there yet?” before you get to the end of the block.
Two things compel kids to ask that question; excitement about the destination and ignorance of the details of the trip. All they can think about is how much joy awaits them at the destination. Their minds race thinking about what they’ll do and what they’ll see when they get there. Little children have poor concepts of time and even worse concepts of distance. They don’t understand, nor do they care about traffic patterns, construction delays, or refueling needs.
How often are we just like a little child sitting in the backseat of the car in our own spiritual journey? We get a glimpse, an idea, a stirring in our hearts of some calling or promise from God and we starting crying out to our Heavenly Father, are we there yet? Sometimes it seems that as much as we can’t wait to get to where we’re going God seems to be driving us down back country roads pointing out cows on the side of the road rather than speeding us down the interstate. If we could just grab that wheel from the Father we’d take every shortcut and highway we could to race to our destination. The problem is, like little children we don’t really know how to drive the car and we often end up in a ditch.
Abram, before God changed his name to Abraham, had the same kind of problem. In Genesis 13, we read how God spoke to Abram and promised that all the land he could see would belong to his descendants. The only problem was that Abram didn't have any children; his wife was barren, but Abram believed God. He surely told this great news to Sarai, his wife (before her name was changed to Sarah). Imagine what a relief this must have been. They were going to have children after all. Months passed and turned to years and still no children. Once again, the Lord visited Abram (Gen 15) and once again he is promised descendants, but more than that, he promised that his descendants would number as many as the stars. Abram questioned the details, but still he believed.
Ultimately discouraged by her inability to conceive, Sarai encouraged Abram to take the maidservant Hagar in order to have a child. It was at that moment that Abram and Sarai finally reached over and grabbed the steering wheel. It wasn’t an act of disobedience per se, after all the promise was for Abram’s descendants all this time with no specific mention of Sarai. Maybe this is what God wanted. It certainly made sense when considering the facts. Hadn't they waited long enough? God helps those who help themselves, right? Wrong. They just needed to wait a little while longer for God to move and bring his promise to fruition.
I think this is the lesson of Eucharistic adoration. We need to learn how to wait on God and he teaches us that through the Eucharist. If you've been to adoration you know that there’s really nothing to “do” while you’re there. It is a passive experience of God. Sure, you may pray, read, even sing (or sleep), but the most striking aspect of adoration is the stillness. Nothing “happens”, but everything is happening in those quiet moments. In the consecrated host we have the hidden fullness of the promise of God for each of us. Ultimately our end, our destination is to be heaven and there on the altar, in the monstrance, in that little piece of unleavened wheat is the very presence of God himself, the one who sits on the heavenly throne. He is teaching us in that moment how to wait for his promise.
We need to apply this lesson of waiting to the individual callings that God has placed in our hearts for the missions he has made us for on this earth just as we see how we are to wait for that ultimate destination of our existence. Do you have a stirring in your heart? Has God given you a word or vision of what he wants you to do, but you just cannot see how it will happen? Wait. He will bring it to pass. He will get you to the place he wants you to be, but he also wants you to enjoy the ride with him. He wants you to learn something along the way and if you are too anxious with worry about how or when you’ll get to do the stuff you’ll be tempted to reach for the wheel and look for the shortcut.
I know this from experience. I had a burning desire to serve God and knew that I had a calling to work in and for his Church. Unfortunately, I got impatient because I just couldn't see how those dreams and desires could ever come to pass. I convinced myself, like Abram and Sarai, that what I needed to do was take that promise that God gave me and make it happen. Not only did I drive the car into the ditch, I got out and started walking. I left the Church for ten years chasing the desire to serve God.
Now God did not give up on Abram, and Sarai. He gave them new names, Abraham and Sarah, and they did have a son as promised, Isaac. He still received the promise because it was God that made it, and because Abram remained faithful to God. It made things a little more difficult (see Jewish-Muslim relations), but God was still able to accomplish what he had planned for Abram/Abraham in spite of his attempts to do it himself. That’s my hope and it should be the hope of anyone who is tempted to think that they've managed to mess up God’s plan for their life. He is constant and faithful. He is always there waiting for us to turn to him and admit that we can’t do it on our own. In the same way he is always patiently waiting for us in the tabernacle or during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. It’s as if he is saying to us, “Relax, sit down, enjoy the ride and I’ll get you where we’re going and we’ll get there at the right time.”