Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Act of Waiting

The past few weeks have felt a bit uphill on this side of life. Nothing terribly dramatic. Still, more trouble than I'm used to. 

These moments have interrupted me, humbled me, worried me, frustrated me and left me feeling more cranky than I'd like to admit on this Day of Thanks.

I'm still in the middle of one of these situations. It is taking longer than I thought. It hurts worse than expected and it doesn't seem to value predictability nearly as much as I do. 

As the hours pass and the questions stir, I fail to lean in - to depend. Instead I watch myself strive - completing, overcoming or simply crossing things off the list. 

When Hannah was ill last week - the kind of ill that leads you to formulate alternative plans for next time - I spent more time cleaning closets (three in one day) than I did on my knees. 

When I found myself wondering about my own test results, I climbed this.

I climbed it to remind myself that I was strong - that I can do things on my own. I told myself that there was little use in sitting around and waiting - that sweat, effort and momentum would make me feel better. And they can! They really can and that only adds to the confusion of it all from where I'm standing. 

To sit and to wait makes me crazy. It feels so useless and unproductive. It lacks a plan - tangible indicators. 

Somehow I've managed to lump waiting and prayer into the same dreadful category and secretly fear that neither prove especially fruitful. 

Author Henri Nouwen has words for me and my present confusion.

"How do we wait for God? We wait with patience. But patience does not mean passivity. Waiting patiently is not like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop, or the sun to rise. It is an active waiting in which we live the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the One we are waiting for.

The word patience comes from the Latin verb patior which means to suffer. Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full, and letting the seeds that are sown in the ground on which we stand grow into strong plants. Waiting patiently always means paying attention to what is happening right before our eyes and seeing there the first rays of God's glorious coming."

So in moments like today - when I'm unable or finally unwilling to take on one more closet. When I know that the very best physical option for me is to sit, the question then becomes, will I dare to pray and to wait within this space? 

May I find the courage to believe that patience and prayer are active, breathing, living, empowering practices that produce growth well beyond what my human striving ever will.  


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