“Wait for it,” was what that voice deep inside of me said. “Just wait for it.” I was sitting with my ten-year old nephew at a Chicago Bulls game some time ago. I’d gotten the tickets for free and was feeling like the super-cool aunt when I offered to take him with me. He was quite pleased. I imagined the perfect night together.
But instead he was quiet. The ride into the city was strained. I asked questions, and he answered. The United Center turned out to be unbelievably loud with way too many things to look at. My nephew who loves sports seemed most genuinely happy about the pop I bought him. We barely spoke. I tried to convince myself that this is what serious sports fans do. They watch. They don’t talk. But by the third quarter, I saw him yawn.
I panicked. I knew my aunt-stock was crashing and crashing fast. As was my hope that he’d want to go out in public with me again. Maybe I wasn’t the favored aunt. Maybe this wasn’t such a big deal to him. What if I really didn’t know my nephew after all? The auto-replay took over in my mind and soon all those doubts were swirling around and around. That is until something deep inside of me said, “Wait for it. Just wait for it.”
So I did.
I waited through the third and the fourth quarter in silence. I waited as we put on our coats to leave. I waited as we walked back to my car. I didn’t know what exactly I was waiting for. I only knew that it was good and it would come.
And it did.
We climbed into my car, our teeth chattering. It was 9 degrees outside. I knew we weren’t going anywhere soon in that parking lot. Waiting for the heat vents to turn warm, we somehow stumbled into a conversation about books. In a matter of 30 seconds, we bonded over all the books we had not read. Not Harry Potter. Not The Chronicles of Narnia. Not even The Hobbit. The ride home was like old times. I watched him reenact a scene from the game for his dad, and I knew he’d had fun.
Taking my nephew to a Bulls game may not compare to birthing our deepest desires. Or waiting for a drought of finances to pass. It’s not the same as praying for your body to heal or reaching out across miles of hurt and loneliness and building a new relationship. But the waiting—and the uncertainty—are the same. The real risk is the waiting—not knowing the shape or form that it will take, but trusting that something good will come.
I waited five years to adopt my son. I said yes in my heart on Christmas Day in 2009 and we celebrated our first Christmas in 2014. In that time, I weathered an adoption “miscarriage,” as they call them. I waited through the recession, an extended patch of unemployment, and the ultimate resurrection of my business. I endured ever-changing laws in Haiti, endless paperwork requested in triplicate from the state and federal governments as well as U.S. Immigration, and a series of medical complications with my son that left me feeling powerless on the other end of the phone.
That wait is a part of us now. It grounded me, literally and figuratively, and it changed me. All those days of not knowing liberated me, albeit rather painfully at times, from old patterns of anxiety and fear. That same wait led me to a much deeper truth within myself, one that helped me build a bridge out of my own isolation and create a new kind of extended family with new and old friends alike. Those five years taught me to trust in the fecundity of life, and of God, and of ourselves.
Every year at Christmas we celebrate the birth of the divine in the world, in us and among us. All births require waiting. It’s an integral part of the process. Some sojourns are nine months; others are five years. Others are an endless 45 minutes. The length of time is hard, no doubt, but perhaps what matters most is how we choose to wait. How we use that time, much like Advent, to open our hearts to what is stirring within us.
Whatever it is that you’re waiting to birth—be it a new career, a family, or that screenplay you’ve been meaning to write—that night at the Bulls game taught me that there are two kinds of waiting. There’s waiting. And there’s anticipation—the kind of waiting that we put our hearts into, that asks us to work hard and still believe, to have faith, to surrender to the not knowing and the darkness that surrounds all new life. To trust that God will always find us.
That kind of waiting, as my son has taught me, is holy ground.