For our family, the past three months have been a time that we’ve had less opportunity to spend time with my husband, Jim, because he has been on his busiest work rotation.
On the very last day of his rotation, we were waiting for Jim to return from work before starting dinner. As we waited that day, he kept on getting delayed. All of us were tired from the day and hungry for dinner (also a bit crabby).
A recent conversation with my friend Marta kept coming to mind. After two months of not having dinner with her husband, she said, “I realized that the very experience of not being able to spend so much time together makes this waiting for another real. Instead of distracting my son from the fact that my husband is not around, this can be the starting point to show and experience what waiting is.”
Marta’s words kept coming to mind, however, and challenged me to live that evening differently and to encourage my kids to do so too. So as our expected dinner hour came and went and my daughter Lia asked why we were not eating, I told her that yes, it was hard to wait, but that we were waiting for someone we know and love to come so that we could share dinner together. I said, “Remember who we’re waiting for — think of dad and of how much it will mean to him to see that we were expecting him, how much more beautiful it will be to eat all together.” I commented too that the tiredness and hunger were still there but that they took on a new meaning, filled with the presence of a person we love and know very well.
When Jim finally did arrive to find the table set and the food uneaten, he was very moved and we were all ready to receive him and sit down to dinner. Although the meal was simple, it was beautiful because we had lived the preparation and waiting together. Instead of just eating when we were hungry, we awaited my husband and were more aware of the gift of time together.
I was amazed at the difference and at how much more satisfying that experience was than perhaps our usual way of waiting and sharing dinner. The difference was that we lived those moments filled with the very concrete presence of my husband and their father.
Another friend recently made a distinction that struck me very much and that I think is key to living Advent in a new and truer way:
The season of Advent must not be understood as a time of waiting for a feast day to come at the end, but a privileged time dedicated to living with deeper maturity, more frequent memory, immersed in the sacred. (It is not only about Jesus coming but Jesus here among us now).
The simple experience I recounted about dinner that day shows me that it corresponds more to do the usual things with memory. It also makes me want to live all my circumstances with a new awareness, that is, filled with the memory of the One who sustains me and gives me everything.
Stephanie Stokman is a part of the Well-Read Mom team. She resides in Madison, WI with her husband and four young children.
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