Wait for Me!

9376_Edward-Burne-Jones-Dorigen-of-Britain-Waiting-for-the-Return-of-Her-Husband-001-628x376

In my Introduction to Theater class as a college freshman, one of the plays I read was Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. The main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, sit around waiting for the arrival of some unknown man named Godot. But Godot never comes. There really is no further plot than this. Plays such as Beckett’s which belong to a particular school of theatre, the Theatre of the Absurd, aim not at telling a story but at illustrating some existential claim, usually something along the lines of “life has no meaning.”

In Lent we hear repeatedly that we are to wait for the Lord. The Psalms are full of these exhortations: “Wait for the Lord, be strong; / be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord!” (Ps 27:14); “Be still before the Lord and wait in patience” (Ps 37:7); “Our soul is waiting for the Lord. / He is our help and our shield” (Ps 33:20). Sometimes the Psalmist takes on a more desperate tone: “I am wearied with crying aloud; / my throat is parched. / My eyes are wasted away / with waiting for my God” (Ps 69:4). Though sometimes full of hope, our waiting can sometimes seem to drag on so long that we begin to wonder whether we wait in vain. It is helpful to realize, however, that we are not the only ones waiting. No, God also waits—for us.

But doesn’t this present a problem? Who is waiting for whom? What if Godot never came because he was waiting for Vladimir and Estragon to come to him? When two people are waiting each for the other to come, does their waiting ever end?

At such an apparent impasse, it seems clear that someone must make the first move. But with God it cannot be the case that our waiting ends only after we make the first move toward him, because the first move is not ours to make. In truth, the first move has already been made. God loved us first, and “we love, because he first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19).

Still, it does perhaps seem odd that God should wait for us—odd, that is, until we consider that God’s waiting is wholly unlike our own: “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you; / therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. / For the Lord is a God of justice: / blessed are all those who wait for him” (Is 30:18). We are waiting to “see the Lord’s goodness / in the land of the living” (Ps 27:13). God waits to be gracious to us and show us his mercy. We wait to receive. God waits to give. And yet, God is always giving—his mercy is always at work.

The key difference, I think, between God’s waiting and our own lies in how the waiting is done. When we wait, even for God, we often tend towards impatience. God, on the other hand, is patient with us, as a father is with his children. During Lent we are likely to experience the trials of the spiritual life in a more intense way, and it may seem that God is distant. But these days are an opportunity for us to recognize our sins, faults, and failings, and to turn back with our whole heart to him who waits patiently for us, guiding us by his grace all along the way. St. Paul exhorts us: “[Do] not receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2).

Samuel Beckett once said that he considered Christianity to be nothing more than an interesting mythology, and that he did not intend the character of Godot to be a metaphor for God, despite their similarity in name. Whether intended or not, it would have been a tragically inaccurate metaphor. Godot never comes, and Vladimir and Estragon simply remain waiting by their tree indefinitely; God, however, does come, and he does not keep silence (cf. Ps 50:3). He speaks his Word of truth, calling us to himself.

Image: Edward Burne Jones, Dorigen of Britain Waiting for the Return of Her Husband

You May Also Enjoy:

Pilgrimages to Our Lady’s Shrines Last year on Thursday, December 12, in the midst of final exams, a number of us student brothers took a Study Break Pilgrimage to visit the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe across the street at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. On that clear and chilly afternoon, we prayed the rosary and sang the Salve Regina, resting a bit before returning to study some more. Albino Luciani - who was to become Pope John Paul I -...
The Look of Love True love is the greatest thing in the world. For the past month and a half, stores have been preparing for Valentine's Day with discounts, sales, and a whole host of gimmicks to get the attention of men and women, both young and old. In essence, the retail world is trying to capture the hearts of its customers by leading them down the road where they will supposedly find . . . love, true love. But what is true love? Can it be found in candy,...
The Divine Dilemma The content of the Gospel is simple, but it is difficult to express simply. Consider the rare eloquence of a crucifix, or the unsurpassable summaries of the faith in Scripture: e.g., “God is love” (1 Jn 4:16). Akin to these condensations is a little book by St. Athanasius called On the Incarnation. Before reading the book as an undergraduate, I had never seen the whole account of Christianity so plainly and appealingly set out. Athanasius begi...
Antietam’s Dry Bones The other day I hiked the Antietam battlefield, the site of the bloodiest day in American history. Yet the actual field does little justice to the horrors of its past. The whole field is nondescript, just some generic East Coast farm. There is a corn field, wooden fences, a sunken road, a small river spanned by an old stone bridge. Except for a 1970s visitors' center and monuments covering the landscape, one would never know that anything monumen...
Br. Peter Joseph Gautsch, O.P.

Written by:

Br. Peter Gautsch grew up with seven younger siblings in Gallatin, Tennessee. He attended the University of Notre Dame, where he studied theology and music. He entered the Order of Preachers in 2011. On DominicanFriars.org