When I was in college, Brian was my best friend. We often went to Third Coast Coffee, because it was warm and dry, and we could both sip a cup of tea for hours. We were experts at making two dollars last all night, and the wait staff there never seemed to mind. In fact, on one particular cold and rainy evening, the waiter seemed absolutely pleasant about it. Every time I excused myself from the table, he would pass by to elbow Brian to get the update, “How’s it going? It looks good. How’s she reacting?”
It actually was not going so well for Brian. Over that awkward cup of tea, Brian explained to me that he wanted to start dating, and I was masterfully not answering him and completely avoiding the issue. Brian and I had been friends for the last three years, and I loved being with him. We went to museums, drained the coffee houses, read short stories, and generally kept each other sane in college. But he was my best friend, and I did not want to ruin that by dating him.
He was persistent though. He wasn’t deterred by my constant evading of the issue. On Valentine’s Day, I was dating another guy, and when I came back to my dorm room, I found two things on my doorstep: a dozen long-stemmed red roses and a small cactus. With great curiosity, I leaned over the roses and picked up the tiny prickly plant. Then I burst into laughter when I saw my name written on it, with that familiar print. It was from Brian.
I opened up the old-fashioned Valentine’s Day card and found an encyclopedic description of the cactus, about its root system being made up of hardy large tubes. “The cactus can live in the desert and survive for a very long time without any water or nourishment. It is a very patient plant,” the card read. “And I am a very patient man.”
Of course, he didn’t have to wait too long after that. I mean, who could resist a cactus on Valentine’s Day? Within the month, I dumped the guy who gave me the roses and began dating Brian. We got married a few years later.
I tell you this story because Advent is the season of waiting, longing, hoping, and expecting. A season when the dry land becomes glad and the desert rejoices. It’s overflowing with that feeling that two young lovers get when they look at each other, from across the room and they both smile. And one looks down a bit… but he’s still smiling.
It is full of that weight of an expectant mother, who not only feels her swollen belly, but every bit of her body, from her ankles to her fingers, is bloated and weary and waiting for that child to be born. She continues to work in discomfort, until this strange thing happens, the muscles in her body begin to tighten in these amazing forceful waves, all in anticipation for the flood of love that will overtake her. It is miraculous, how every fiber in her body is expecting and preparing for what is to come.
In one way or another, we’ve all been caught up in purposeful longing. So what are your stories? When have you sensed that intense hope and expectation?