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The Painfulness of Waiting

For the Colorado Rapids, offseason came sooner than last year. No playoff game appearance. No run for the league cup final. Players, coaches, staff all scattering to the far reaches of the globe until it’s time to return and begin a season anew. For the Rapids and many others throughout professional soccer in North America, the season of waiting commences. The Rapids, recently announced a new head coach — so for some, the wait in that regard is over. But as the 2018 season lies ahead, there is a painful waiting that has begun.

Waiting for a Contract

Imagine this scenario. You are 30 years-old. Married. You and your spouse are expecting your first child and you are waiting for a contract for the next year. Paycheck, insurance, benefits, rent/mortage everything is up in the air for a few months until a team decides whether to offer you a new contract to play. And if the opportunity doesn’t come? The dreaded “R” word — retirement. For many, players and their families this can be one of the most difficult waiting spaces that they will ever face in their careers. Do they continue to try and play, or do they move on to the next chapter of life? How will they provide?

Waiting for a Chance

Or, take the Rapids’ case under consideration — a new head coach. If you might equate this, it’s like getting a new boss at work. Everyone finds themselves in a unique situation. Will they retain their positions (coach or player or staff)? Will they get a chance to prove themselves? Will they get off on the right foot?

Waiting for Healing

The offseason is replete with many who have had injuries or hurts and pains to take care of them with a surgery or rehab. Often times, players are waiting for their bodies to heal and recover. Some of them have had to get a surgery, where the risk is that they may or may not heal and recover or they may not be able to compete or perform at the level they once did.

Waiting for Clearance

The sport of soccer is a global enterprise and it is managed at an international level, unlike many other sports. A player transferring from one country to another must go through a process and make sure that they can receive clearance to play in another country. Many times a player might find themselves in a waiting situation where they are wanting to play games and they are ready, but they are still waiting for their paperwork to get clearance.

Waiting for a Game

The World Cup draw was this past Friday. Teams participating in the 32 global tournament found out which opponents they will face next June 2018 in Russia. Now comes the waiting game — of course, there will be preparation and “friendly” games to hone and warm up to the competition, but there will be months of waiting until knowing the outcome of one of the biggest events around the world every four years.

These are just a few examples of waiting in the sport of soccer and as I reflect on the different moments of waiting (there are more), I am reminded of the season that we find ourselves in. Advent is a season of waiting. In the first Advent, we find that many are waiting for hope, redemption, deliverance. They face oppression, persecution, death.

Waiting is not easy, especially in our culture which has become “instant.” I won’t bore you with myriad of “instant” examples, you know them already. But waiting isn’t popular. Henri Nouwen once wrote,

For many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go. People do not like such a place. They want to get out of it by doing something.

Nouwen goes on to say that waiting is even harder because of fear.

Think of it for a moment — if you had those waiting moments above, what would you fear?

Fear of failure, fear of not having a job, fear of being rejected, fear of being injured or maimed. Because of fear, we become driven to “strike first” or to “look out for number one” or to “stab someone else in the back.” Fear drives us to avoid waiting periods. Fear drives us to become very busy so that we cannot feel the painfulness of waiting.

But what if we could be different in our approach to waiting? What if we could understand the nature of waiting in such a way that it was a flourishing place for us?

Waiting for a Promise

If we realize that waiting is a productive (albeit unseen) time that produces promise, we can live into a transformed view of waiting. Like a woman, pregnant with child, she can bear the discomfort and waiting because what is inside of her is growing from a seed of promise into a child. Nouwen writes,

So waiting is never a movement from nothing to something. It is always a movement from something to something more.

If anything can carry a soccer athlete, coach, or staff member though those difficult waiting moments above, it can be the promise that is held. The promise of a new team (if the old one doesn’t want you back). The promise of a new contract that honors your ability and contributions or maybe simply your legacy and history. The promise of an opportunity to test yourself in a stage of competition against a worthy or even greater opponent.

Waiting with Hope

Another way in which we may wait and wait well is when we wait with hope. Hope is different than mere wish or desire, because hope takes more of an approach that is open. Wishes and desires may overcome us to the point that we go out and try to control our future or dictate the results. Hope, though, allows us to wait differently. Hope trusts that the promise will be fulfilled — the promise, not merely what one might wish.

As the season of Christmas approaches, it has been interesting to me to observe how my own children have moved from the hope-filled wonder and awe of the wrapped gift to more of a “wish” attitude or mentality. When what is wished for (or even requested) is not produced, severe disappointment follows. It’s like opening the package shaped like an iPhone only to discover it’s socks! The need for socks is perhaps more real and tangible than the phone, but the wishing dominates and eventually disappoints so that the actual gift is lost.

During this Advent season, my hope and prayer is that in whatever waiting season or place you may find yourself in, that you will wait with hope and realize that there is a great work at hand in the waiting place. There is something that is happening within the heart. There is a strengthening. There is a resiliency that is growing inside of you.

Advent blessings,

Rev Brad Kenney

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