Advent 2022: Waiting For God and Godot

Published November 28, 2022 by Jonah Dove

You asked, "Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?" Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. (Job 42:3)

In 1953, Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot premiered in Paris. Stay with me, this is going somewhere. The play centers on two men named Vladimir and Estragon who wait under a tree for a man named Godot who never arrives. Waiting for Godot is the most famous play in the Theatre of the Absurd—the Absurd being the philosophical idea that humans perpetually search for universal meaning when there is none, and Godot is representative of that meaning. Beckett wrote the play in French and didn't consider that "Godot" sounds like "God" in English. He never meant to suggest that humanity is perpetually waiting to see God.

But I'm an interesting kind of anxious.

I can't separate God from this play because I, too, am waiting forever when Godot will never come. This isn't to say I believe God is fake, but that He isn't going to give me a sign. In May of 2021, I spoke about the Book of Job, the Bible's Theatre of the Absurd, where God plainly says that mortals, even if they got an explanation, cannot understand. I know deep down that I won't ever get proof of God's existence. Vladimir and Estragon know deep down that they won't ever meet Godot. But the three of us continue standing under the tree, waiting. We can't accept this bleak idea that we're stuck waiting with no fulfillment coming.

So what's Beckett's interpretation of this problem? Absurdist philosophy could argue that there is peace and fulfillment in the certainty of Godot not arriving. What you should do, according to absurdism, is continue to wait as an act of defiance against this certainty. Vladimir and Estragon are stuck in limbo because they hold out hope for Godot to appear to them. And the sooner I really, truly accept that God isn't going to do that to me, the sooner I will be at peace.

Is it wrong to use the work of one of the most famous agnostics for an Advent devotional? I don't think so. This is philosophy, the peanut butter to the jelly of religion. Using one can help you understand and appreciate the other. There's something to be gained here. I'm waiting for proof, but one cannot have both faith and proof, and it is faith that God demands. I know I won't get proof of God's existence, and that's the one thing in religion of which I can be certain. I understand Godot won't come, and I am at peace with that. Now I just need to work on that faith part.

Are you under that tree with Vladimir and Estragon? Waiting for a sign to be certain of Him, even when you know it won't come? I invite you to pray how I do: asking for peace with knowing that you can't know. There's a calming sort of existential peace in that, if you can accept it.