Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

A Holy Impatience

By Robin Tanner

“I wanna be ready
I wanna be ready
I wanna be ready
when joy comes back to me.”
—"Joy Comes Back," a song written by Sean Staples

With white Christmas lights strung in the background, and lit candles, a paper Advent calendar on a table has open doors.

Shortly after his birth and several times in the first year of his life, my son Benjamin was hospitalized for breathing difficulties. He is now a robust two-and-a-half year old.

Before the pandemic, we sent him back to daycare. It was a big decision, informed by a pediatric pulmonologist, that his lungs were strong enough to withstand the germs. In those first weeks, Benjamin would come home delighted from seeing other children. But at night, I would creep into his room while he slept in order to listen to his breathing. After three weeks of this, I finally realized I was waiting for him to get sick again.

I was exhausted. Reentry is hard.

Even in the presence of all things longed for and hoped for, reentry is hard.

This year, the Advent season seems particularly seized by a spirit of the expected, the longing. The waiting is a mixture of dread and hope. On the one hand, I turn to the horizon and long for a day without masks, and with face-to-face humanity, once more. On the other hand, as winter deepens I seize up for a second swell of this deadly virus. I listen to Benjamin’s breathing and my own heartbeat pumping in my ears.

And still… hark the herald angels sing! We are called once more to a holy impatience and presence: to live with an unquenched longing for the world as it can yet be, while also discovering the bits of that world already unfolding in our midst. The child is not here yet—and yet—the spirit of that child, the dreams for that child, and the story have already been written upon our hearts. We are in a time of readying for joy even as injustice and suffering are woven into each day.

Perhaps this is hope: a holy impatience at its most elemental and embodied form, which dares to dream while fiercely loving the world today.

This morning, Benjamin shouted as I went to walk out the door, “Wait, Honey (a story for another day) … Hug!” It was enough. And it will never be enough.

Prayer

Gracious God, help me to be ready for when joy comes back. Allow me to reenter this world with a holy impatience, born of the longing for the world that can be, and holding the child already in our midst. Holy One, let me be a human of the lavish expectations and practical courage, one who allows love to hold me on the hardest days.

About the Author

Robin Tanner

Robin Tanner is a Unitarian Universalist minister, poet, and activist who serves as the Minister of Worship and Outreach at Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit, New Jersey.

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