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Entering Advent: Awaiting Judgment

"There is no once and for all moment when we can say that at last we are whole, the past is buried and over, the hurts forgotten, the wounds healed. Instead we find that it is to be a search that we must expect to continue throughout our lives.”

Esther DeWaal, Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality

The Christian life, we'll all inevitably find, is one of intense waiting. We yearn for conclusion and closure, wanting what is unwell in our lives to be made well fully and unambiguously. We want sanctification, but we want it all at once. Our impatience for all to be set right is not a virtue; it is a mark of our deep-seated pride.

Today I spent time with our Brazos Fellows talking about the Rule of Saint Benedict. Benedict talks at length in the rule about the tools of humility. There are several, but the fourth one is this, that when "hard and contrary things, nay even injuries, are done to a person, he should take hold silently on patience, and, bearing up bravely, grow not weary nor depart, according to that saying of the Scripture: 'He who has persevered to the end shall be saved.'"

We very often want to run away from troubles and suffering, or feign a kind of weakness saying "I'm not strong enough." The truth is no one is strong enough. Bearing suffering patiently is only possible by the gift of God's grace. By ourselves, we would only grumble and become resentful. The key is to become a people who, already experiencing God's immense grace, await coming judgment with hope that all that remains will be redeemed also. The essential practice of Advent is this: putting ourselves deeply in this place of tension, in this paradox, and creatively searching for the judgment of Jesus upon our broken and sinful lives.

To do so will undoubtedly be uncomfortable. It will even bring great suffering. I say, with experience, that it will bring spiritual warfare to our front door. But, we continue, knowing that the battle is not our own, that the victory has been procured, and that in this period of post-war skirmishes, the heavenly host of angels and saints fight with us. Advent is a time in which we resist the urge to "jump the gun," in which we take on the discipline of patient waiting, knowing that it is perseverance which will win the day!

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