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On waiting

Mother’s day this year, along with some vegetables, we planted ten dark sturdy sunflower seeds. Giants compared to the marigold seeds I worried would vanish with the wind during the transfer from packet to palm to soil. The marigolds blossomed weeks ago, but I’ve been patiently waiting for our sunflowers.

Just the other day, they looked like this. If you hold your gaze long enough, you can almost imagine those bright lime-yellow petals unfurling to reveal their long-standing petticoat.

I’ve never been a big countdown girl – with the possible exception of physics. I was definitely counting down every single mind-numbing minute of tedium in that 50 minutes of class each day. I am the girl who does not care at all why electricity works, I just want to flip a switch and have the lights go on. If that doesn’t work, this is why we have electricians, yes?

But countdowns do serve a purpose. They can either build excitement or induce anxiety, depending on whatever it is you’re waiting for. Either way though, they prepare us for and lead us to some predictable end point.

But waiting, when there is no known end point is a completely different matter entirely. Waiting for the love of your life, waiting to sell your house, waiting to adopt a child, they can all engulf you and become the cloud you can’t quite shake loose or outrun. We all play it cool for a while, like it doesn’t really bother us, until well, it does.

Looking back after the waiting often reveals a very survivable expanse of time. The outcome is known. There is at least one less variable in the equation. But, if you’re in the middle of the waiting, it can sometimes seem like an un-survivable expanse of time.

It’s the same way driving to a new destination always feels longer than the coming home. Anticipation with no confirmation is the perfect way to slow down time. Waiting grounds the time that flies like no other.

Emily P. Freeman in “A Million Little Ways” takes the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, “I am the rest between two [musical] notes,” and expands them to describe waiting like this:

We may spend whole seasons of our lives in this rest between the notes.  All seems quiet, desolate even. We can’t see the swelling of music rise up on either side of us – all we see and feel and know is this quiet nothing, this continual pause, this winter with white in all directions. . . . The waiting can drive us mad if we let it. It can become a merciless dictator, shoving us into shapes we aren’t made for, shapes of worry and doubt and short tempers.  But the waiting can also grow us, shape us from the inside out for sacred work. This is a kind of work that happens only in the secret place of abiding in the presence of Christ. . . . There is still movement in this waiting, though it may be hard to see.

If you too, my friend, are waiting patiently for something or someone, with seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel or countdown to cling to, a few more words of encouragement from Glynnis Whitwer:

I’ve learned when it seems God has me “on hold,” it’s really a new assignment. Perhaps that’s where you are today. Feeling like the world is passing you by. May I speak some hope into that place of waiting? God hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t turned His attention from you and on to someone else. He knows exactly where you are and what your days look like. He sees your tears, and knows your sadness. And I am confident, He has a plan to bring you joy again. There is something He wants you to learn in this season. And I imagine it has something to do with knowing Him in a new way.

Here’s to praying that when you let your guard down, and let your mind wander from the waiting, to the living, you just might turn around one day to see the brilliant yellow star that is your heart’s desire reveal itself to you.  The flower that’s been slowly unfolding all this time, too slowly to consume by our naked eyes and fretful hearts.

And if it’s not the star you imagined, I hope you’ll find peace in at least the knowing of an outcome you waited so long for.

Holding space today for whatever it is you are fervently waiting for these days.  And hopeful the outcome of your waiting allows you the blessing of a much sweeter joy to savor.

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