But I find myself now where many who surround me are deep in the trenches of longing of another kind, waiting of another sort. It is breathless— and though it may be hopeful—it is not exciting. These tenacious people I know get up every day with an ache.
They wait for platelet numbers to come up and stay up so their cancer-fighting spouse of 40 years might come home for Christmas.
They wait for love. They care for themselves and those around them while staring down another single birthday—they thought it would be so different by now. They are complete, their lives are full, but they are longing for someone to come home to.
They wait for a positive pregnancy test; they long for a pregnancy that does not end prematurely. They smile through tears at the Christmas cards depicting beautiful children and friends they love because they thought they would have pictures like that of their own by now. They are caught in a cycle of hope and of mourning; they ache for a child.
They wait for scans and results to show something new, something better, something different than the symptoms they’re feeling. They busy their hands while their minds worry and their plans are on hold.
They wait for the reconciliation they know they are promised. They wait for prodigals to come home to stay.
They wait for the sight of their precious 8-year-old son, now bald from months of chemo, to stop being a shock. They wait for it to feel normal, even as they rage that it should not be so. They long for these days to be behind them, even as they embrace all that is good right now. They pray for healing and restoration.
They wait to hear heartbeats, to see wiggling limbs in darkened rooms. They hold their breath, hands on their bellies, marveling over new life within and hoping that all will be well. They are anxious to meet their babies.
They wait for the tension to abate—maybe it’s the holidays? The stress? All these blessed children? They fake smiles, they wait for the joy to feel real; they wait to feel familiar connection with their spouse instead of the cold.
They wait through days when there simply isn’t enough. They stretch themselves, their money, their time; they pray for days when there is enough to rest, even as they give thanks for all there is now.
They wait for their men to come home from faraway seas and deserts. Another baby, another milestone, another Christmas apart. They steel themselves for the emptiness they know will come on Christmas morning. They wait to be reunited.
They wait as they ponder that this time, this life, this everyday isn’t what they thought it would be. It doesn’t feel fulfilling. They are restless for more, even as they embrace what they have.
They wait in stillness, in sadness, as if through smoke. They wait for a glimmer of what they know is still there. They fight it, they hold fast through the circumstances, through depression and doubt. They wait to find themselves beneath it all again.
I am waylaid and heavy laden; I hurt for my friends. Though no one would ever have accused me of being empathetic before, when I was younger and so sure of so much, now I find myself carrying their burdens—I don’t feel I have a choice.
I want to help. I want to comfort. I want to love well, though I know these are hurts I cannot possibly heal, problems I cannot possibly solve.
“What about your friends?” she had asked him, “don’t you want to see your friends?”
“I want to see Emerie,” he replied, “she helps me.”
“How does she help you?” his mother asked.
“She just helps me get through school easier.”
My eyes welled upon hearing this. Of all the words I say and lessons I teach, of all the hopes I have for my child in her dealings with others—this is the part I could never articulate. The lesson I could never really teach. She won’t always get all the answers right; she won’t always keep her emotions in check; we will have days (like yesterday) that I just want to forget altogether. But this—if she can leave others feeling that it’s all just a little bit easier when she’s around—then we will have imparted all she needs to share God’s love with others.
In this season of waiting and longing, I don’t think the sadness is at odds with the coming joy. The Jesus I know came humbly into darkness, into sadness, into confusion. He fits there; he is comfortable there. We don’t need to sort it all out first. We need only make room, right where we are.
And as we hurt along with the ones we love, may we be like Emerie. May we walk alongside, helpers in the waiting.