Waiting

Pastor Claire said: "Never rush the waiting; for in the waiting there is preparation." I have been hoping to meet someone, to eventually share my life with someone, for only about six months; but those six months already feel like years. Yet pastor Claire waited fifteen years before finding her newlywed husband -- fifteen years! Though I inwardly gasped at someone having to wait fifteen years to find someone with whom to share life and love, I still found comfort in her words, and that even in the waiting there is action, there is forward movement, there is preparation.

I admit that I want to love and to be loved sometimes more than I want my next breath; or at least with the same intense passion. But pastor's words caught my attention: I already know something about waiting and preparation. Even a year ago I was not prepared for a life-long committed relationship. I had to experience transformative occurrences before I even longed for love. But, now that I feel ready, reflecting on pastor's words causes me to think that perhaps I am in need of further preparation; that, presently, I am more like a little kid eager to drive dad's car before learning how to ride a bike. Perhaps a bit more preparation is in store.

Tom Petty famously sings: "The waiting is the hardest part." I agree. Waiting requires patience and patience strains the longing. (I only wish patience restrains the longing.) But patience itself is a form of suffering. "Without patience," writes Henri Nouwen, "our expectation degenerates into wishful thinking."1 Wishful thinking never attained or accomplished any reality. Nouwen reminds us: "Patience comes from the word patior which means, 'to suffer.'"2 We refer to Jesus' suffering as His passion; but the word "passion" too often, in our Western mindset, refers to romance or that which motivates us toward an action or hobby. But to be patient is, in some way, to suffer -- to suffer lack for which one longs or desires.

We tend to want what we want right now. I know I do. We are so used to the microwave and fast speed Internet that we find waiting and patience as a curse. I have difficulty learning the lesson that distractions are means of preparation. Henri Nouwen remembers a professor from Notre Dame University confessing: "I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I slowly discovered that my interruptions were my work."3 (emphasis added) Nouwen adds: "That is the great conversation in our life: to recognize and believe that the many unexpected events are not just disturbing interruptions of our projects, but the way in which God molds our hearts and prepares us. . . ."4 I have a lot to learn still about life and love and patience and commitment.



Nouwen encourages us to view the waiting, the expectation, in a good light: "A man or a woman without hope in the future," which waiting and expectation fuels, "cannot live creatively in the present."5 So, while we are proactively waiting for that which we hope, we can be prepared and transformed for the arrival of our expectation(s). We do not sit around like a bored child and expect our hopes to be fulfilled in the next moment. We learn and we grow and then we blossom in the waiting.

When I consider that a giant tree takes years upon years in order to plant deep roots, grow thick bark and to sprout long and thick branches that provide shade, I am forced to calm myself in the midst of my longing. That tree has experienced harsh winds, heavy rains, and blistering sunny days. Woodpeckers have penetrated its bark; squirrels have climbed its heights; birds have crafted nests for their families. But the process to becoming what it was designed for took many long years, much patience, much suffering. What are you patiently waiting for today? "Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him." (Ps. 62:5 NLT)

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1 Henri J.M. Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2005), 55.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid., 56.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid., 59.

ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.