In Spanish we have a word for active waiting, pendiente. It means to be available, to wait expectantly, but without angst, to anticipate but with patience.  It is not a rushed or stressful word. It is a pause, with an expectation of an end to the pause at some point. When I was a kid, I remember my dad saying to one of his friends who was going to be gone for the day, but assured dad he would be back that evening with whatever it was Dad had asked for, “OK, I’ll be here, pendiente.” In other words, I’ll  be around. Google translator says this use of pendiente is untranslatable into English. Hmmm, is that some kind of commentary on our hurry-up culture? The idea of waiting with expectancy, availability and anticipation but without irritation and impatience is rather foreign to us.

Alas, in spite of my own familiarity with this word and its meaning, I’m afraid the concept has often eluded me in practical application. I have waited—a lot. I have waited expectantly, impatiently, and petulantly. I have also waited without much motivation or anticipation at all—which can sometimes look like patience, but is really just indifference. This idea of waiting patiently, while still being expectant, is one I am not naturally inclined toward.

Yet, as I was looking up verses in Scripture about waiting, this seems to be exactly the posture God calls us to. Consider the following verses:

  • “I waited patiently for the Lord, then he listened to me and heard my cry.” (Psalm 40:1) So his wait was patient, but he was still crying out to the Lord, expectant of God’s intervention.
  • Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) In the middle of two commands to wait for the Lord is a reminder to be strong and take heart. This is no passive wait. This is a time to develop strength and bravery.
  • “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” (James 5:7-8) James likens our wait to the farmers. The farmer knows the process. He is active in it, and yet he waits for the appointed time of harvest.

This morning I read the story of Simeon who, as Luke puts it, “was waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Luke adds, “And the Spirit of the Lord was on him.” He was waiting, and the Spirit was present. God’s Spirit was ON him in the middle of his wait. And he was active. We know this because he was at the temple. The Bible is clear—this guy was old. He had waited a LONG time. And he could have been a bit tired in both body and soul. But his wait was active, motivated by the Spirit of God on him, so that when the Spirit moved him—who had been pendiente for much of his life—he followed that lead and went into the temple courts where he encountered Joseph and Mary, coming with the infant Messiah to dedicate Him. Now I might have been tempted to think or even say, “Are you sure, Lord? This is what I’ve been waiting for all this time? A tiny baby in the arms of a teen-age girl and her carpenter husband from Nazareth?”

But that’s not his response at all. Because Simeon wasn’t waiting on his own expectations. He was waiting on the Lord to fulfill His promise in exactly His way. Thus when he saw this child his response was not disappointment but grand delight. It was more than he ever dreamed of. He had waited for the “consolation of Israel” but when he held Jesus he knew this was the “Salvation of the Lord for all people.”  What a revelation! Simeon waited actively, moved by the Spirit, and when he saw God’s answer, it was away better than he had dreamed.

This gives me hope. It gives me courage. But it also lays down the gauntlet in my own life. Will I wait for my own expectations or for the Lord? Because only when I’m waiting on the Lord can my wait be active, patient, pendiente.

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