Tag Archives: Waiting

We Have Lost More Than We Never Imagined

Imagine a child who has never lain back in the grass just to feel thin leaves whisper against his earlobe, never watched cloudplay to find a story told for him alone, never learned to hear the separate song of robin, sparrow, chickadee. How can he hear the separate song of loneliness, sung by the owl-eyed little girl, the skinny immigrant with his beautiful eyelashes, the old lady liver-spotted with near 100 years of secrets, stories, songs?

How can a poverty of imagination purchase empathy?

Imagine a child who has never lain on the bedroom floor with Peter Pan, Treasure Island, Hardy Boys, never plucked out a tune on unfamiliar instruments, never learned to look for shooting star.

How can he dream, who never dreams?

How can he plan for tomorrow, who lives in the never-quiet racket of today?flower-bird

How can a poverty of thought purchase purpose?

Imagine a child nourished on binge-watching, blinking neon games, portable noise. There is no end to thumping bass and chime of inbox, the unceasing prattle of friends (no more waiting, even, for a phone call).

There is no waiting, period. There is no delayed gratification, no longing, no patience needed. And we are surprised when impatience bears its ugly fruit.

Where do they come from, the children with their guns? Where is this carnage born? Is it a failure of legislation? Of health care? Of education? Of parenting?

Or is it simply that we have forgotten how to sit, quiet? It takes quiet to see—are you surprised? Sit in a nickel arcade and try to see your neighbor’s heart, try to see your own.

We have forgotten how to see what others see, forgotten how to slip into their shoes.

We have forgotten how to imagine, how to dream.

We have forgotten how to listen, how to wait.

We are always loud, forever moving. Why then are we surprised when there is no peace? We are paying for the sins of omission.

Without quiet, there is no thought.

Without thought, there is no thoughtfulness.

Without thoughtfulness, there is no empathy.

Without empathy, there is no remorse.

Without imagination, there is no vision.

Without vision, there is no reason for hope.

Without hope, there is no reason to live.

With nothing to lose, there are no inhibitions.

We sow the wind, and we shall reap the whirlwind. (Hosea 8:7)

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

― Wendell Berry

Kate’s Magic 8 Ball

Kate, circa 1986:

Magic 8 Ball, will I ever have a house with secret tunnels and an elevator?  Don’t count on it.

Will I live among gypsies in Spain?  My sources say no.

Be a teacher?  You may rely on it.

Marry the red-headed boy?  Outlook not so good.

Write a best-seller?  (Magic 8 Ball laughs hysterically.)  

Me:  Is this thing broken?

When you think about it, all of the deep questions we have about the future boil down to yes or no.  The combinations may be endlessly complicated (will my house in Spain among the gypsies have secret tunnels and will I be a novelist with red-headed children or a spinster teacher with 22 dogs) but bit by bit, they are all yes or no questions.  Well, duh!  But this is an important point.

That thing you want settled most right this minute is a binary proposition.  God, will I have children?  May I move to the mountains?  Should I go for a Ph.D?  Should I send my kids to boarding school in a far-away country?  For prayers big and small, we are waiting on a yes or a no.  (I’ve often heard  that the third option is “wait,” but really that’s just a slow yes, so we’re back to the first two.)  Two choices?  Gosh, that simplifies things.

Let’s take an easy example.  Take the boarding school question.  Let’s say your kids are driving you batty and you are really hoping for a yes.  You give the Magic 8 Ball a vigorous shake and it comes up “very doubtful.”  Well, bummer.  But you still have two options.

Option one: misery.  You look down the long years until they head off to college and realize that, nope, it’s not likely they are going to graduate early.  Nary a prodigy in the bunch.  You have another dozen years to go, and you are going to wake up every single day with a scowl, refine your yelling abilities, pout, and complain to anyone standing nearby.

Option two: contentment.  The prospect of a dozen years of misery sounds kind of, shall we say, miserable, so you decide to breathe deep and be grateful.  You hang up some cat posters about silver linings and cups half full and buck up.

But what if the Magic 8 Ball magically offers you positive words?  “It is decidedly so.  Without a doubt.  As I see it, yes.”  Now what?  You still have two options.

What will you choose in the waiting?  Misery, or hope?

Think about the big prayer of your heart ten years ago, twenty.  What was the answer?  What did you do with it?

Did misery ever add a day to your life, worry a happy hour to your day?  Was joy less joyful when you chose to be present in a good moment instead of bracing for a bad?  How many times do we wish for a time machine while we wait?  But even if you could see the future, you’re still looking at a pair of simple options.  It’s either going to be a yes, or it’s going to be a no.  And either way, you’ll have a choice.

I’m starting on a read-the-Bible in a year plan (check it out here — this is a great little app) and for a few days have been following Abraham’s story.  Now here was a guy facing a sloooow yes.

Abraham:  God, will I have children?

God:  Yes.

Abraham:  I’m like, old.

God:  Definitely not getting any younger.

Sarah:  I’ve got an idea.  There’s this maid…

Abraham:  That’s genius!

God:  sighs.

Abraham (like me) has trouble waiting joyfully.  I mean, he does wait.  Just not very placidly.  Maybe he paces a little, kicks things.  He and Sarah brainstorm a great way to give God a hand that involves sleeping with the help and goes, as expected, badly.  What if he’d just… waited?

What if I trusted, hoped, but didn’t spend all my time looking ahead?  What if I looked around instead, noticed the small gifts, embraced the season?  What if I chose life?

Abraham and Sarah’s ache was deep, as all the childless know.  There is a waiting — for healing, for reconciliation, for validation, even for death — that is painful.  No cat poster can fix what’s happening behind half the doors on your street.  And yet, no one can take away the choice we all have, every day.  Deuteronomy 30:19-20 lays it out.  “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days…”

So what’s the big question bugging you today?  Maybe it’s yes, maybe it’s no.

What will you do with it?

See Eternally: Homesick, Part 2

In the waiting, do you lose heart? God is not dead, nor does he sleep. The hiddenness of God does not indicate his absence, his apathy, or even his inaction, just our own blindness. We can’t see God or his host of angels any more than we can see electrons whirling around in our fingertip. That doesn’t mean he isn’t there.

imageInfants enter the world without the ability to trust the invisible. Peek-a-boo is startling to a baby because the baby cannot fathom that Dad, having disappeared, is still in the building. Psychologists say that developing a sense of “object permanence” is one of the first milestones of an infant’s cognitive growth. So it is for the born again. Christ, the Rock, must be to us a permanent object, or we are forever stunted, spiritual babies, subject to panic. Where is he? I can’t see him! I have been waiting five whole minutes!

In the waiting, faith.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is unnecessary when visual evidence is in supply. Should God condescend to give you a roadmap of his plans, you can hang your faith on a hook and rely on divine GPS. In the meantime, faith is the choice of a blind man to trust another’s eyes, to trust enough to run.

While we wait, heaven, too, is waiting. In Hebrews, we read that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, believers gone before us, cheering us on. Run, therefore, even when you are afraid and blind. The finish line is near. The stands are packed, the cheering is a roar. The reward is sweet.

“If I weep,” sang Rich Mullins, “let it be as a man who is longing for his home.” Are you homesick? What a home you have to look forward to.

In Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Revelation we are treated to bizarre descriptions of heaven, relayed by people powerless to articulate what they have been privileged to see. No time traveling involved, mind you — what they glimpsed of heaven was there all along, is there even now, out of sight. The veil briefly lifted, the vision cleared, and hey ho! More than meets the eye. A crystal-clear sea, a city gleaming like jewels, the river of life overhung with orchards straight from Eden… above all, seated high on a throne, the King of Kings, so magnificent in power and glory that even the seraphim cover their eyes, overcome with perpetual awe. This is your home. Seeing eternally means seeing with eyes of faith what we cannot yet see with eyes brown, blue, or green, and translating that faith into footsteps.