By Makaila Mobley
The Deep Desire of the Devout
The thing about the devout, the truly devout, is that their desire runs the deepest.
Once there was a man, a man who God himself chose to document for all of time and history as righteous and devout. His name was Simeon. Simeon was a man of focus and trust. He saw the trouble swelling in Israel, the blood running in the streets, the oppression of his people. And while his grief was severe, his heart was not overcome, his soul remained free, breathing the air of hope in a world of darkness. His hope remained true, even as the world seemed to threaten to collide and cave in on itself, because he had received a promise from God.
He would see the Messiah.
He whispered the name to himself often, “Messiah”. To the cynical and self-protecting, the word “Messiah” sounded like a taunt… a child’s dream that would never come true. To others they believed because it was right to do so, but their belief was a matter of theology only and it brought little solace to their aching hearts. But to Simeon, the promise of the Messiah had planted itself deep in his heart and all he did stemmed from this one hope. He was focused and true, his devotion was pure and passionate. He trusted. He would one day see the Messiah, the one long anticipated and prayed for, the one who would liberate Israel from her troubles.
As he waited, his heart ached for the fruition of this promise, but it was a full ache, for he was doubtless and sure.
Find this portion of Simeon’s story in Luke 2:22-25
The Ache and Goodness of Waiting
There is a common theme throughout scripture where we see goodness and rewards granted to those who “wait upon the Lord”. But this idea has a tendency to get a little cloudy in translation. Our English word for “wait” carries with it the idea of sitting idle while we wait for something or someone to catch up with where we are at. It feels like emptiness, like time wasted. In contrast, the Hebrew word, qavah1 translated wait in English and repeated over and over in scripture in the phrase “wait upon the Lord” carries a much fuller meaning. There is a sense of savoring, of renewing, of gathering, and building connoted in the Hebrew word for wait.
Maybe it will help to think of it this way: there is the waiting of a farmer preparing for harvest time, then there’s waiting at the bus stop. There’s the waiting of a pregnant woman, then there waiting to be seated at a restaurant.
You see the difference. A farmer watches the seasons and growth of his crops carefully and tends to the needs of the field, cultivating and laboring over his crops even as he waits for them to be ready to harvest. An expectant mother, is ever aware of what stage of the pregnancy she is in, what is needed for her baby and when, she watches what she eats, how often she exercises, how regularity the baby is hearing his parents voices, anything and everything to let her baby grow to his healthiest and fullest potential and all this while she waits for him to arrive. By contrast, waiting at the bus stop for your ride to show up or waiting to be seated at a restaurant is an empty waiting, there is nothing to do in the meantime to prepare, nothing to savor, nothing to build or gather.
Just like Simeon who waited for the arrival of the Messiah, we too are waiting on the Messiah to come back and consummate the Kingdom. And we are waiting on Jesus in a thousand ways today as well. We wait on Him to usher us into the next season of life, to bring us into a new job, to bring us into relationship with our future spouse, to bring us into parenthood, into a new house, into a more meaningful role in ministry, into a position of greater influence, into a deeper friendships… in all these things we wait on the Lord and we would be wise to make sure we are not waiting on Him as we would wait to be seated for dinner, but as expectant parents wait for their new child. There is work to be done in the meantime, we have much to prepare, foundations to build, talents to invest, character to grow, and insight to gather.
But waiting, even the good, non-idle kind of waiting invites an ache to take up residence in our hearts, for waiting for the fulfillment of desires that have yet to become realities brings us into the ache of longing. And just like there are different kinds of waiting, there are different kinds of aching.
There is a hallow ache, and there is a full ache.
A hallow ache is the worst. It is darkness and icy wind and emptiness. A hallow ache is lonely. It is hopeless. A hallow ache comes for the one who knows they need a Messiah to liberate them but they do not trust the He will come through and so their ache is empty and full of excruciating pain.
In contrast, a full ache is waking up to the warmth of a new sunrise and the smell of cinnamon rolls and bacon that you have yet to taste. A full ache is the longing before the wedding known so fiercely to the engaged. A full ache is the excitement, and trust that what is hoped for will come and the knowing that this time of waiting will end. A full ache is full of hope.
For those who stay open to desire, they ache with a fullness that can almost be tasted. Waiting on the Lord, is a time to be savored, for there is a profound goodness in the waiting as it expands and deepens our hearts in preparation of the fulfillment of all our desires, the coming of the Messiah.
Stepping Deeper into Advent
Advent is all about the arrival of the Messiah and during these four weeks leading up Christmas, we remember and step more consciously into this place of waiting.
Jenn Giles Kemper in her liturgical planner, Sacred Ordinary Days says it well, “During this season, we assume a posture of waiting. We choose to enter the story as it happened for those who came before us: with anticipation, with groaning, with longing, with hope.
“It is no new practice for us to wait in the dark. We, too, live in a world of shadows. We, too, trust in a future victorious day. We too, cling with a stubborn hope to what God has promised: the return of our coming King. Advent is a time for us to practice the ‘already but not yet’ kind of waiting.”
- Strong’s Concordance 6960
- Jenn Giles Kemper Liturgical Planner, Sacred Ordinary Days