Saturday, 20 June 2020

Saturday 20 June

In the prayer poem known as Psalm 31, we read this:

Be strong, and let your heart take courage
All you who wait for the Lord. 

During this pandemic, I think we have all felt what it is to wait for something. The kind of waiting that offers no indication of how long it will last. The kind of waiting against which it is useless to fight, the kind we are powerless to control. Perhaps we have felt what it is to wait in a place of enforced inactivity, when we feel the pressing from every side and yet can do nothing to manoeuvre ourselves further along. 

Some of us have experienced waiting in a place of fear, anxiety or dread. Others of us have waited with impatience, railing against the circumstances. Some of us have felt resignation, the step-sister of surrender that leaves us weary or defeated rather than filled with hopeful resolve. Still others have refused to acknowledge the discomfort of waiting, preferring instead to drown out the feelings that irritate and trigger our places of brokenness, with entertainment, an unending series of online connections, and Amazon purchases.

However you have responded to the waiting, I feel you. Waiting with no definite end-date has to be one of the most destabilising experiences we know. We wait for a health diagnosis, hoping mutely for a positive outcome. We wait to get a new job, cycling countless times through hopeful determination and disappointment. We wait for our estranged daughter to pick up the phone. We wait for a financial breakthrough. We wait to get unstuck in a relationship or in circumstances that are not of our choosing. We wait to meet our soul mate, or for the person we admire to return our affections.

[Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash]

Waiting is so often unchosen. Think of Abram and Sara waiting for a child. Or Joseph waiting to see if his dreams would be fulfilled. Consider the Israelites waiting for their release from Egypt. And think of Anna and Simeon waiting expectantly at the Temple for a sign of the Messiah.

We wait. Indeed, as believers our individual stories unfold in the context of a Great Waiting: for the purposes of God to reach their fulfilment, for his sons and daughters to be revealed, and for everything to be caught up in Christ's reconciliation of all things to the Father. We wait with all the same emotions we experience in smaller ways over lesser waitings - sometimes with anxiety, with impatience, with resignation, often with weariness and every so often with clarity of vision and hopeful resolve.

And as we wait, we are changed. All waiting has the potential to achieve a wonderful, redemptive change in us. We are deepened through waiting. We come to see that we are not the captains of our own ships, rather that God is ever moving towards us with a heart of committed compassion and goodness. Waiting brings to the surface all the doubts and questions lurking in our minds and hearts. And waiting refuses, on the whole, to offer answers to these questions. Rather waiting, if we are willing to move more deeply into it, can become a place in which we come up against the bedrock of our deepest knowing and, in the end, find ourselves held fast. Eventually, we become like a weaned child with its mother (Psalm 131), finally ceasing our restless striving and coming to a place of rest.

What is the nature of your own, very personal waiting? In what ways is God at work in you, during the bewildering place of waiting? What is becoming more real to you, as you wait? Who or what offers you life and light in the darkest moments of unremitting waiting? 

All you who wait for the Lord, let your heart take courage. 
When in your waiting you feel ashamed and alone, take courage.
When others fail to understand you, take courage.
When your slowness through this passage of suffering seems to surprise people,
When you feel you have to justify yourself, take courage.
When people avoid you, avoid the places of deep loss and grieving in you, take courage.
When you wonder if you will stay here forever, take courage.
When you wonder if you've done something wrong, in order to find yourself here, 
yet you've replayed every decision and can see only that you did the best you knew how, take courage.
When you feel like a fool for having believed that life would be different from this, take courage.
When you're tempted to simply resign yourself to this disappointing or dreadful reality, take courage.
When all sense of hopeful vision has deserted you, take courage.
When the waiting sees to go on forever, take courage.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.

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