Monday, April 8, 2013

The Sacrament of Waiting (Homily 49)

"...they shall not be ashamed that wait for Me." Is. 49:23b

Trust is a matter of waiting. Waiting to see what happens. Waiting to see what unfolds. Waiting to see how it all turns out. Waiting to know whether or not the endeavor was successful, or the enterprise was worth it, or the action had its consequences, or the person kept their word. Trust is all a waiting game, a frustrating yet common game, feeling more like a necessary evil than a necessity.

Waiting is not about sitting still or inactivity. On the contrary, waiting is often when we are at our busiest. We fill out applications. We make calls, make connections. Go to this place and that. Get involved in this thing or that. We make assessments, weigh options, keep our eyes open and ears to the ground, and do our research, all while continually puttering about in our daily work and hobbies and habits. Truly, waiting is more than a static thing. You could almost call it an ecstatic thing: we feel ready to explode at any moment.

Reality is always a paradox on some level, and intimately woven into our bustle is waiting. No calls have been returned. No letters (for good or ill) have been received. No significant or special someone has presented themselves. No one rewards or even seems to acknowledge any of your contributions. Therein is the paradox. In the very midst or all our doings, we can only sit, sit, sit, sit, sit. And we do not like it, not one little bit.

Waiting is a frustration for anyone, but for the child of God it need not be a source of despair, for as said earlier waiting is where trust begins. Even after our best efforts to make something happen, there is always the period of silence and uncertainty. Into that void come doubts and fears and the diabolic death spiral that pulls us into ourselves: "What else could I have done? I should have done more! It's all on me!" It is not all on you, and that is what the silence teaches us.

The book of Isaiah is saturated with the promises of God, complete with fantastic proclamations and wild resolutions so unexpected and counter-intuitive that you would think God is mad. But He is not mad. He is the only sanity left, and He is teaching us how to think straight. The times of waiting are for our sanity, viz., they are meant to turn us to God. "This thing is not in my hands. It is too big for me." That is the beginning of sanity and peace.

When the waiting does finally end (as all waiting does), it will be so much sweeter than any instant gratification, for "thou shalt know that I am the Lord" (vs. 23). If things were easy, then God would be as unreal as vapor. It is in the trying that He is made real. In the birth pangs, He is enfleshed. If we would have a real God in our lives, then we must let the waiting play itself out. We must go about our business in hopeful expectation of God's goodness. That is how we live. That is how we trust. That is how we taste and see that the Lord is good. Amen.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013

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