A Reflection by Hannah D. Landgraf
If I have learned anything from experiencing nearly nine months of pregnancy and from attempting to live out my Christian faith, it is that time is not ours.
I do not mean this in the way you might hear some Christian tropes pronouncing things like, “It’s God’s time, not our time!” or “God has a plan!” or “Everything happens for a reason!” or “God won’t give you more than you can handle!”
In fact, when I hear these things, they sound like increased human attempts at controlling time. Well, if I cannot be in control and steer white-knuckled through every aspect of my life, then at least I can rest assured that someone or something else is in control. We’re fine. Everything is fine.
While I am convinced that God knows us, sees us, loves us, and—with our help—is working to weave all things toward good and justice, I do not believe our faith leads us to unexamined statements about God’s control or power.
And when I look to scripture and our tradition and I sit with my lived experienced, I begin to see even more clearly how God is urging us to embrace the in-between—the liminal, topsy-turvey, intermediate, periods of waiting and uncertainty. These are the places and spaces God meets us.
In early pregnancy, I was sick and nauseous and uncomfortable. And while the miracle of modern medicine gives us some relief, there wasn’t much I could do about it. At first, I willed the time away. Couldn’t the months go faster? But time was not mine, and when I finally resisted the urge to speed forward, the babe within me began to teach me the extraordinary gift of not seeking an end to the in-between but learning to embrace it.
In these final days of pregnancy (which for many turn to agonizing weeks) I am once again reminded that time is not mine. Logistically, everything is done and ready. Our bags are packed, the nursery is stocked, we’ve read as many books on childbirth and newborn care as we can. Because, you know, all that reading and information makes us feel in control of the unknown season before us.
We are neither here nor there. Being in the middle can feel like insanity. When will this baby
arrive? We aren’t a culture that waits for anything. Amazon has packages on my door within days, the internet brings up thousands of search results immediately. Many of these results are suggestions about how to make this waiting period go faster (eat dates! have sex! take this vitamin! drink that concoction!).
But these in-between spaces aren’t meant to be rushed through. Our tradition gives us seasons to practice this waiting. Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we live through Holy Saturday. In Advent, we practice pausing and considering the possibility of the incarnation. We wait for weeks for the wonder of Christmas. In scripture, we read that Jacob waited to marry Rachel, Hannah waited for her son Samuel, and that Jesus waited to begin his public ministry. We wait, we wait, we wait.
We wait for job offers after interviews, we wait impatiently in line at the store, we wait with anticipation and trepidation for a loved one’s test results. Children wait for the joy of Christmas morning.
When we were trying to get pregnant, we waited two weeks to take a pregnancy test. When we miscarried, we waited to try again. As foster parents, we wait on the arrival of placements and then we wait constantly for courts and systems to make painstaking decisions. In this waiting, we learn that time is often unevenly and unjustly distributed. That the marginalized and minoritized are asked to wait longer. That the in-between time is not always a period to stay silent, but to fight and move forward and advocate.
For the last two years, since the onset of COVID, we have waited—for information, for a vaccine, for a cure, for some sense that we are journeying toward safety.
I’m learning that this is where life is really lived—the in-between, the already but not yet.
These periods of waiting are where God is most active. If we can embrace the waiting, slow down, and resist tightening our grasp on every moment, we might learn something about the wildness of God and about what it means to move through life with a spirit of openness. We might learn a little something about ourselves—about what it means love and accept our strengths and our brokenness.
So, in these final weeks of Advent and pregnancy, I’m doing my best to wait well. This means understanding that time is not mine and my waiting is intertwined with your waiting. I am going on long walks, listening to the birth stories of others, and lighting candles. We are going bowling, baking cookies, decorating our home, and cleaning. We are going to work and calling our parents and reading the newspaper. We are paying attention.
This waiting is not a waste. It is an opportunity. I want to wait with you and for you to wait with me. I want to pay attention to when waiting means taking a step back or moving forward.