Advent Wreath

Advent Wreath

 

As I was meditating one morning with my small Advent booklet, I read this sentence: “Advent reminds us that waiting is often the cost of love.” It stood out to me, most likely because my husband is on the other side of the country until the 18th, and the children and I are trying to go on with life while we eagerly await his return.

Those of us who have used Natural Family Planning (NFP) to avoid pregnancy, are familiar with another kind of waiting – the waiting of abstinence until the fertile phase has past and we can make love to our spouses again. In the beginning of my fertile phase I usually start out optimistic and excited. I love the energy boost that comes with the return of my fertility. I like feeling lively and creative. Multitasking, writing, and just the demands of life in general seem to come easy during my fertile phase. As my fertile phase stretches out, however, upbeat optimism, turns to, well, sacrifice. Abstinence is challenging. That’s why some of the early Christians chose to take vows of celibacy. After Rome stopped throwing people to wild beasts for being Christians, some people felt called to give “the ultimate sacrifice” so to speak, but they were no longer in danger of martyrdom. Thus, the vow of celibacy came about, as they viewed it as a kind of “living martyrdom”. No matter how idealistic I may be, sacrifice is still sacrifice and suffering still involves suffering.

My mother always told me, “You always know how much someone loves you by how much he is willing to sacrifice himself for your good.” So it is that my husband and I learn to give ourselves completely, to try to decrease selfishness little by little so that we can grow in love, and there’s nothing quite like suffering to purify love of selfishness. Furthermore, there’s nothing quite like going without to make us really examine what we think of something. We take the internet for granted until we’re in a power-out.  I know of one woman who for years would try to pressure her husband into having sex with her during her fertile phase even though they had both mutually agreed that they wanted to postpone pregnancy. Finally she realized that her actions were just mean. She wasn’t trying to be mean, but nonetheless they were not very loving toward her husband. She also realized that her actions stemmed from insecurity. She didn’t know how to just be herself or how to be friends with her husband. Perhaps she internalized the message from society that says women are supposed to be sexy and tantalizing at all times to have any worth. Whatever the reason, she knew that periodic abstinence was a gift to her marriage. Through it, she eventually knew the security of knowing that she was loved, just as she was.

There was another couple that used sex to feel connected to each other. This in itself is perfectly alright and in fact is partly what sex is there for. It bonds two people together. The problem was that his particular couple didn’t know how to connect in any other way. He didn’t have good listening skills and so his wife learned to keep everything inside rather than risk sharing vulnerable thoughts and feelings with him. Also their lives were busy with work and children and they didn’t make time for one another – time to really spend talking, listening, getting to know what each thinks, or to just have fun with one another. This couple had to learn how to be intimate with one another in non sexual ways, which waiting gave them the opportunity to learn.

Of course, there are many other ways that we must wait. Some military families wait very long periods for the safe arrival of their loved one. People wait for the birth of children, a positive pregnancy test, to hear back about a job, or any number of things. During this season, may we not be afraid of the sacrifice of waiting, whatever it is that we are waiting for.

Written by April.