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A Time for Everything

“There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under heaven”

~~Ecclesiastes 3:1

Waiting isn’t one of my virtues.

I recently read that Americans spend an average of one to two years of their lives waiting. The mocking, “Your call is important to us” from a customer service department. Switching lines in the grocery store or lanes on the street, only to discover that the line or lane you vacated is now moving at twice the speed. All of these kinds of experiences frustrate us.

Waiting is about wanting to know the answer to the question, “when?” As Americans, our insatiable quest for knowledge and information has escalated to the point where impatience and needing to have everything now is the status quo.

And waiting is about control. When we wait, we no longer have control over our time and progress in life, as we find ourselves at the mercy of others.


In my life, waiting has usually been something undesirable. I had to take a year off of school between graduating high school and my first year of college, to pay off student loans that had defaulted (a long story, how I was in high school and had student loans—I’ll leave that for another post). I had to delay pursuing my MFA a year, because my grad school of choice never received my undergraduate transcript. Then I delayed grad school a second time, since I did something crazy—fell in love—and decided to tell the first grad school, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

All of these experiences relate to school, but there have been other long periods of waiting. Waiting to see if my father would come home from the hospital when he fell ill. Waiting to see if my mother would come take me to live with her, as she so often promised. While these instances didn’t end in the ways I hoped, I also learned much about myself along the waiting.


Right now, we’re deep into the season of Advent at my church. For the past two years, I’ve been the Altar Guild Coordinator for our small congregation. I set up communion weekly, change the colors of the paraments and decorations in the sanctuary, based on where we are in the church year (for Advent, the color is blue, although some churches still use the older, traditional color of purple), and, in general, make sure that everyone can come into the church and worship in a welcoming, clean environment. The Christmas season is my busiest time as Altar Guild Coordinator. I have a page-long task list that I check daily, wanting everything to be perfect for our Christmas Eve candlelight services.

My first year as Altar Guild Coordinator, after some research, I decided that, unlike in previous years, the trees and other decorations wouldn’t go up until Christmas Eve. This led to both confusion and anger, and I spent a lot of time defending my decisions. Most of the conversations went something like this:

“Why aren’t the Christmas trees up yet?”

Me: “It’s Advent, not Christmas, and we have Christmas trees, not Advent trees. Just because everyone else puts their trees up right after Thanksgiving doesn’t mean that we have to. Advent is about building up to Christ’s birth, so we have something to anticipate.”

“But the trees have always gone up right after Thanksgiving.”

And on it went.

I cried. I doubted myself. I prayed for wisdom. Was I doing the right thing? After all, what did it matter to me if the trees went up before Christmas Eve?

That first Christmas was difficult for me, and I thought about resigning almost every day. But I didn’t, and last year I understood why.

In preparation for Christmas Eve service, I spent most of December 23rd at church by myself, setting up and decorating. By the time I finished, I was exhausted, and didn’t look forward to the next two days, which would bring even more work. When I put the last poinsettia in place, I plugged in the lights on the Christmas trees. Shuffling back to the last pew in the sanctuary, I flopped into it with a sigh. Then I looked up.

The warm glow of the lights, their white brilliance radiating, illuminating the altar and the wooden cross hanging over it, brought tears to my eyes. I had spent two Christmas seasons arguing, pleading, and negotiating with my brothers and sisters in Christ, trying to get them to understand that I wasn’t “doing what we always did” out of a place of rebellion or lack of cooperation, but out of a sense of duty to what I felt called to do.

And now, after those two years, I received the fruit of my labor: the blessing of knowing that He—my Lord and Savior—is worth the wait.

Like Elizabeth Bishop and losing in her poem “One Art,” I’m learning that the art of waiting isn’t hard to master.

4 responses to “A Time for Everything”

  1. That is a beautiful and inspiring article. It's very hard to do what you think is right when everyone around you says that it's wrong. But it sounds as if it worked out very well in the end.
    I admit that I'm a little confused about what happened to confirm the rightness of your actions after two years. Did you get the blessing of a spiritual insight? That would be wonderful but I'm not sure it's what you mean.

    • acbauch acbauch says:

      I do feel as though I received a spiritual insight. Advent is a season of waiting, building up to the birth of Christ on Christmas Eve. Traditionally, we rush through Advent, in such a hurry to get to Christmas and all the fun, food, and gifts.
      However, Advent also symbolizes the waiting and building up toward Christ's second coming. I'd been so absorbed by my struggles that I had completely lost sight of this, and of Him.
      I hope this makes more sense, and I thank you for your kind words and comments. :0)

  2. Avatar Karen says:

    I get so frustrated with the prevalent attitude that we need to maintain the status quo. What's wrong with doing things differently?
    I'm glad you got to see your efforts pay off.

    • acbauch acbauch says:

      Hello, Karen!
      I embrace change, but I know I'm in the minority in this. The past two years have been interesting for me, seeing how people react to change. Christmas is not the only season where I've adjusted some of our "traditions," and some of these have been better received than others.
      However, I'm not averse to keeping traditions, as long as we know why we do it. To me, "that's the way it's always been done" doesn't suffice. When I think about this from a Biblical perspective, I consider all of the times Jesus spoke out against people's mindless obedience to the laws of the time.
      I appreciate you taking the time to comment. :0)

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acbauch123 About acbauch123

Amanda C. Bauch, writer, editor, and teacher, has an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University and is currently working on a young adult novel and a memoir. In her “free” time, she works as a freelance dissertation editor and formerly served as Assistant Editor for Relief: A Christian Literary Expression. Her short fiction has appeared in Tattoo Highway, Bent Pin Quarterly, The Hiss Quarterly, and nonfiction pieces have been published in Writer Advice, Empowerment4Women, as well as two print anthologies, Tainted Mirror and MOTIF: Writing By Ear. She also won an honorable mention in the 2007 Writers’ Workshop of Asheville Memoir Contest and second place in the 2006 Lantern Books Essay Contest. Her viewpoint often derives from her dysfunctional family history, relationships, Christianity and spiritual issues, and random nonsense.

Read more by this author on 30POV .


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