There is nothing I dislike more than waiting. It’s perhaps my least favorite activity in life, and the word “patience” makes me cringe.
As a child, my mom would constantly remind me: “You’ve got to learn to be patient!” And still today, in my mid-twenties, my mom reminds me of this every time I pick up the phone to call and complain about how life is just not moving as fast as I want it too. “You can’t have everything you want right now, life takes time” is her classic line and one that drives me crazy. I know she’s right, but nothing gets me fired up more than patience.
For the last forty-some days, we’ve been keeping count of the Omer. Day by day we would pray “today is ten days of the omer which is one week and three days…today is twenty days…twenty-five days….thirty days…” Each day is bringing us closer to the holiday we are about to celebrate: Shavu’ot, the day that HaShem first gave his Torah to his people Israel. If I’m completely honest, counting the Omer is a challenge for me. Stopping each day and agonizingly counting 1…2…3….4 as slowly as humanly possible goes right into that “impatient” folder in my life. For me, each day of the Omer is a daily reminder of the thing I dislike most: waiting.
It seems as though nowadays “waiting” is the leading cause of a boatload of problems including anxiety and depression. “Being in the moment” is now the encouraged exercise to combat the feelings of anxiety that waiting brings with it. While the art of patience is a life-long process, it seems as if we are hit with a whole bundle of “waiting moments” in our early adulthood, which means we have a lot to be anxious about. Will we get good enough grades in high school to be able to apply for college? Once we apply, will we be accepted? Once we finish college will we get a good job? Who will we marry? When will we get married? Will we make enough money? These are all very big life moments that at times require a lot of waiting. Sometimes what we are waiting for is not even in these categories. Sometimes we are waiting for our broken hearts to heal, for the pain of a situation to make sense, or for heavenly guidance in a difficult situation. Sometimes we are waiting for love, for children, for a future. We are waiting to build our lives and grow our dreams.
I guess the Israelites must have felt very much the same way. After just being taken out of Egypt, rescued from the oppressive taskmasters, and brought into the desert they were counting on HaShem to make good on his promise. But you know what happened instead? They waited. In fact, they waited for fifty days wandering in the dry, hot, complicated, and often dangerous desert. I’m sure they felt anxious and perhaps even angry at God. After all, HaShem promised them a good life in a land flowing with milk and honey, not the dry desert in which they found themselves. I’m sure that promise seemed very far away from them. However, history tells us that HaShem was faithful to them and made good on his promise when Moshe descended the mountain with two stone tablets, giving the people an identity, a duty, and eventually a land as well. He filled them with hope and purpose in their wandering.
The nation that wandered in the wilderness wondering if HaShem heard their cries turned into the greatest nation on earth. The people who questioned the silence of HaShem in their waiting received the greatest gift of all. HaShem used the waiting period to prepare their hearts for his Torah, so that the people of Israel could hold the greatest gift ever given to humanity.
So too, in our waiting, HaShem will be faithful to us. Perhaps that is one aspect of what the Omer is supposed to remind us. Each day that we count is a day to trust in HaShem’s goodness. To look back on our history and trust that our waiting will also be worthwhile. In just a few days we will celebrate Shavu’ot, a reminder of many things but also that HaShem has not brought us this far to let us down. He will fulfill his promise in our lives. He desires goodness for us and, in our waiting, is holding us close to his heart.