For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions and to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. -Titus 2: 11-13 (Epistle from Liturgy of Epiphany)
No one likes to be told to wait. We tend to want things, as one restaurant ad puts it, “your way, right away.” Today’s reflection is on the importance of waiting.
Lots of people can’t wait to get married. Literally, they can’t wait. So they start playing house in high school, experimenting with activities that are supposed to be reserved for marriage. They give of themselves not only in inappropriate sexual ways but also inappropriate emotional ways. When they’ve had their hearts broken too many times, when they’ve become so confused about things like love and intimacy, then when the time comes to have the reward in marriage, they are either not ready to have it or incapable of enjoying it properly. Many marriages are doomed from the start because neither party comes into marriage with a solid foundation.
Years ago, you had to amass 20 percent of the price of a house to put as a down payment in order to buy a house. You had to save, and usually that meant waiting, and being disciplined with your money. I remember as a newlywed we had very little money; we are a lot of macaroni and cheese and frozen pizza those first couple of years. We didn’t eat at fancy restaurants or buy expensive cloches. We didn’t run up credit card debt. We saved as much as we could. We also never failed to offer stewardship to the church. After five years of marriage, we had saved enough and we bought our first house. As we walked into “our house” the day we closed on it, we were both in tears, because we knew what it had taken in order to get to that point-all the sacrifice and saving to get a place of our own to call our home.
When you hand something to someone, they don’t value it as much. There was a period of time after we bought our home when banks decided that you could buy a house and put no money down on it, that everyone was entitled to a house, whether they had saved or not. So, many people bought houses who couldn’t afford them. People bought houses putting no money down on them, so they were easy to walk away from when people got tired of making payments. People didn’t have much stake in the houses and so they didn’t invest much time or money in them. This led to a housing crisis that we’re still trying to recover from, because we messed with the system chat required people to wait and co save.
These two examples-dating and home buying-emphasize the importance of patiently waiting. They also emphasize that there is a reward for those who patiently wait. If you don’t wait in order to experience marriage in the way God intended for you to experience marriage, then when it is time to get married, the experience will not be what it was supposed to be-you’ll find chat you haven’t really learned how to be patient and loyal because you made a habit of not developing either in your relationships. And if you are not disciplined to save money, you won’t delight in the joy of home ownership.
The message for today is simple- God is calling us to live upright and godly lives in this world, while awaiting our reward. It’s hard to do this in a world where there is so much instant gratification, where we are told we don’t have to wait for things.
God has shown us the path to salvation. We don’t get there in one day. Life on earth is long for most people, and that’s a good thing. That’s lots of time to save for eternal life; that’s lots of time to enjoy the things of the world also. When we were saving for a house, that didn’t mean we had no fun-it just meant that we tempered our fun into outing that didn’t cost that much. And when dating, that doesn’t mean don’t have any fun either-it means enjoying certain activities, while refraining from others.
The key to waiting is to first focus on the reward. And second, to have patience. The reward for a life well lived in the eyes of God is eternal life in the Kingdom of God. We lose focus on that because the world tells us it’s not real. The world tells us not to worry about the future, to get all you can today! That’s why you’ve got to pray and read scriptures and GET AROUND PEOPLE who believe as you do, so that you can have your confidence boosted that heaven is FOR REAL!!! And that it’s worth saving in order to be saved.
And while waiting, we must do so with patience-we must patiently follow the commandments of God, which call us to sober, upright lives, not crazy, chaotic ones. God’s commandments call us to save for the future, not put ourselves in spiritual debt or spiritual peril. Christ teaches us that the future reward is seeing the glory of God. God’s glory-remember the Nativity-the shepherds saw it because they trusted. The Magi trusted and saw it too. Bethlehem was raucous and distracted. The parties and family reunions were probably a lot of fun. But they MISSED Christ, they missed God’s glory, because they were focused on the “world.”
Faith, trust, patience-these are the things that help us live sober, upright and Godly lives in this world. And the Godly life in this world, leads to glimpses of God’s glory in this life and an everlasting experience of God’s glory in the life to come. This is our blessed hope.
The right hand of the Forerunner and Baptist, the prophet honored above all the prophets, trembled as he beheld You, for You are the Lamb of God Who cleanses the sins of the world! He was seized with fear and he cried: I dare not touch Your head, O Word! In Your mercy sanctify and enlighten me: For You are the Life and the Light and the peace of the world. (From the Royal Hours of Epiphany. Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Live in a Godly way today!
~Father Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, LET ALL CREATION REJOICE: Reflections for Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany