Living while Waiting

Waiting can be agony. Have you ever had to wait for something that would transform your life in a major way? The call from the doctor’s office with the results of the biopsy, your wedding day, your GRE score, your court date, your child’s HIV blood test, your conversation with the person you want to forgive for ruining your life. Waiting can lead to levels of anxiety we never thought we’d experience. Thank God we never experience them alone.

On this Sunday’s Pentecost (Acts 2), we celebrate the coming of God’s Spirit in a new way after Christ consciousness had been born into the world and had been fully integrated and completed in the life of Jesus. Now it was the rest of humanity’s turn to get in on the fun of living connected to the eternal union of matter and spirit (Christ), which had been woven together from the beginning of time (John 1)…

Only the first thing Jesus’s followers are told to do is WAIT. Go back to Jerusalem and just wait around until the auspicious moment arrives— and then figure out what to do next. Trusting that God’s Spirit will help us through whatever comes at the end of our waiting is what Pentecost is all about for me this year.

The followers of Jesus teach me something important here: they didn’t hang out twiddling their thumbs or exclusively watching Netflix during their sleepless nights of waiting and wondering (though I’m sure they would have loved that!) The text says they also did something we don’t talk about much today unless we’re asking for a divine favor: Scripture says they prayed.

Sue Monk Kidd, in her fabulous book, When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions, says:

“When you’re waiting [in prayer], you’re not ‘doing nothing.’ You’re doing the most important something there is. You’re allowing your soul to grow up. If you can’t be still and wait, you can’t become what God created you to be.”

One of my favorite Christian teachers from the middle ages reminds me regularly that “nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness.”

We are God’s people. We need God’s Illumination and Insight and Energy to further Love’s presence in this hurting world of ours, and the only way to get tapped into that power line of Spirit is to breathe deeply while listening to the voice of Stillness within.

Here’s two ways Kidd describes to do prayer of concentrated stillness:

  1. Sit at Jesus’ Feet. Remember the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10: 38-42) and how Mary plunked herself down to listen to Jesus, and didn’t help her sister with the housework? Instead, she just opened herself up deeply to her love of what God was doing in her, and to her trust in God’s promises to continue to work good out of even the worst of present circumstances…Like Mary, some folks awaken their senses to God’s presence each day by fixing their attention and wonder on beauty or simplicity—like the simple wonder found in nature. Even if it’s just 15 minutes at your window listening to the birds and watching the ebb and flow of the leaves dancing in the breeze, the presence of Spirit in the natural world awakens our hearts to the deeper Reality that is holding all of our moments together in a nurturing, guiding way.
  2. Sit While Jesus Prays for You. There seem to be so many times when we don’t know how to listen to Stillness, or even how to pray with another’s help by sharing our struggles with someone else. Scripture says that the Spirit of God intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words in our times of struggle. This means that we can simply close our eyes and imagine Jesus sitting right beside us doing all the praying while we just focus ourselves on his outpouring of love for us in the fullness of God’s presence. Your mantra with every inhale of breath can be, “God is already here with me…God is growing strong in me…”

Waiting like this with the hard questions of our lives is the chrysalis of creativity and growth. It’s what allows us to do the daring and to break through to newness, like Pentecost butterflies emerging into the light.

There’s a lot of important work that needs to happen inside that chrysalis to transform a squishy worm of a caterpillar into a creature of the air. May be have the perseverance to trust in our own unique processes while we learn to unfold our wings into the next season of life.


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