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Come Thou Long Expected

Come Thou Long Expected


The last few days of expectancy have been harder than the previous nine months combined. Intellectually, I know the facts: first time mothers average eight to ten days overdue, and I'm only on day six. Yet my heart doesn't deal with facts, and my arms don't like them at all. 

In serene moments I rest in truth and trust: he will come at his appointed time. Before the foundation of the world, the Lord appointed my son's life and days, and breathtakingly: me, his mother. 

At other times, I feel that labor has already begun: the silent, hidden labor no woman spoke of to me, the labor of waiting. The tears, the missing, the wanting. The longing for his appearing. The holding-my-breath hours filled with observing my body for signs, any sign, of his soon arrival. The urgency of readiness, of desperately needing all things to be finished, prepared, complete. Dishes. Laundry. Cleaning the sinks. Beds made. Floors mopped. It feels like preparing my home for the arrival of an honored guest. 

And then lying in my bed weeping, unable to do anything else, barely able to find words of prayer that encompass the full-and-overflowing longings of my heart which wrestle with my practical, efficient-big-sister sort of mind: 

He'll come when he's ready. 

I know, but I want him now. 

It's not his time yet. You need to wait. 

I am waiting; I just want him so much.

Just a few more days. If that.

I can't bear it.

Yes you can. You have to.

Maybe he will come today.

Maybe so. Today, seven years ago, I woke up from a dream in which I gave birth beneath a fig tree to a baby still wrapped in his birth waters. It was an intense, apocalyptic sort of dream. It reminds me of the season we live in now, the way the world has changed since then, the way darkness creeps over the whole earth with pain, violence, madness and suffering.

I look to heaven with a primal sort of longing, words spilling from tear-salted lips: come thou long expected.

The tears, the missing, the wanting. The longing for His appearing. The holding-my-breath hours filled with observing for signs, any sign, of His soon arrival. The urgency of readiness.

::

The time will pass anyway. This is not something I have the ability to control or avoid. I distract myself, and go through motions, but this comes from desperation, not peaceful surrender.

::

It is overcast this morning. Slow-moving rain from Hannah is forecasted to come later from the south. It is not lost on me that the Hannah from old also received a son from the Lord after so many barren years. I inhale the scent of my husband's coffee, brewing fresh in the kitchen behind me. Scripture comes to mind: Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

"I want to enjoy every moment being pregnant," I told my husband in the beginning. "I've never been pregnant before. I may never be pregnant again." 

He reminded me of this the other day. We both spoke of longing for the birth of our son, and as I groaned he teased, "I thought you wanted to appreciate all the moments?" 

"I have," I said. "I've appreciated them. Now he needs to be born."


The truth is, once he is born, he's here, and there's no going back. There must be something waiting for me to see or understand in this tender, pre-birth time that will never be here again. This, too, is part of it all. It is necessary and meaningful, even though my heart struggles to find—or accept—that meaning as it cries out for my son. I've caught a glimmer, though. I think it is about waiting for the most tender thing I will ever experience in life. I've waited for a lot of things in my years, but nothing so tear-soaked and achy sweet.  

In the waiting, can I rejoice still?

Can I be creative still?

Can I be alive fully, still?

My life is not on hold. I still have the gift of today. I'm still called to live and move and have my being rejoicing in my Maker. And today I have been blessed with something extraordinary: the opportunity to wait for the most beautiful and sweetest gift I will ever receive this side of eternity. 

In the waiting, can I make these words mine? "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!" If so, the prophet continues: "The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord."

Hope and wait quietly. There is something for me to learn here; something I need to experience and grow from. Only the labor of tender aching for my son could create the conditions needed for this. There is literally nothing else in life that could. And so I get these moments, mere seconds, really, to soften into it, to embrace the waiting and learn how to dwell with it, to learn how to be shaped by it and matured. To become sweetened through the longing that ripens with time.

As always, it circles back to trust. Will I? Am I wild by the river, lush and life-giving? Am I planted by the waters like a grace-rooted tree? Will I be not anxious in the year of drought, when waiting for the rainfall, when waiting for my long-desired son?

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!
—Ps. 27:13-14

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