By Waiting and By Calm

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I generally like to think that I’m a patient person. Lately, however, all of this waiting is really trying my patience!  Throughout this period of transition, there has always been something to keep me busy – writing assignments, part-time work, Spanish classes, job searches, preparing reflections for my prayer group, networking dates, trying new recipes, hanging out with friends. One of the keys to staying hopeful is simply having something to look forward to each day!

Last week, for the first time in almost 10 months, I finally hit that moment where I just wanted to bang my head against the wall and shake my fist in exasperation.  I am so done with the waiting game!

The most recent round of waiting has gone something like this:

I found this amazing job posting!  I spent the weekend polishing my cover letter … I applied for the job … I had two really great phone conversations … Wait … First interview … Wait … Wait … Second interview! … Wait … We’d like to check your references!! … Wait … Waiting some more … Still waiting … (ugh).

I’ve been assured that this is normal, and coming from the business world, I really appreciate their thoroughness!  The time line has also been interrupted by Holy Week schedules and Spring Break holidays.  (I appreciate that, too.)  Luckily, each step along the way has been met with positive feedback and hopeful signs.  But by now, I feel like a five year old waiting for Christmas, especially since I can see the presents sitting right there under the tree in front of me!

I have to admit though, this most recent round of waiting feels different than the waiting I was doing … say, six months ago.  Perhaps I’m more prone to growing impatient now, because there is a very clear end in sight.

It is much more difficult to wait for something ambiguous and unknown.  Spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, reminds us that waiting is an active, not passive, activity.  Part of the spiritual discipline is to remember that something is happening in the stillness.  Nouwen writes:

People who wait have received a promise that allows them to wait. They have received something that is at work in them, like a seed that has started to grow. This is very important.  We can only really wait if what we are waiting for has already begun in us. So waiting is never a movement from nothing to something. It is always a movement from something to something more.

From time to time, I pull out my bucket list.  I’ve also gone back to that wishful thinking exercise that I used with our students, “If you could take a semester off, how would you spend your time?” This weekend, I think I’ll embark on my list of Cheap Things To Do In Chicago.  I keep telling myself that there is still time – to spend a day at the museum, to dive into a home improvement project, to go for a long walk along the lake.  Time is a gift, so how can I use it well?

Assuming this job offer comes through, my life is about to get extremely busy!  I keep reminding myself that a year from now, I’m going to wish that I had a little more down time, a little more flexibility, a few more lackadaisical spring days with nothing pressing on my calendar.

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During Lent and Easter, I’ve been reading Tim Muldoon’s book “The Ignatian Workout for Lent” which offers 40 short spiritual reflections based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  On the Monday after Easter (when this misery of waiting brought me to a halt), I read this reflection based on the post-resurrection narrative of Jesus and Peter at the seashore.

The disciples knew Jesus had risen, but they had no idea what this meant!  They had gone back to Galilee and returned to what they knew – fishing.  In hindsight, we see these Easter days as a time of great celebration.  But the disciples were still confused and waiting for Jesus to offer some kind of guidance.  This particular reflection could not have come at a better time for me.  Muldoon writes,

“There will be time for the work of the kingdom; for now, it is enough simply to break bread with Jesus and eat fish with him.  Life after Resurrection is not a relentless cycle of actions to change the world; it involves patient waiting for the Lord.  Most important is not endless activity but willingness to wait for the Lord and simply be with him.  We may be active, but our action will not bear fruit unless the Lord directs it.  Wait for him.” (Muldoon, 152)

As I was putting together these thoughts this morning, I did a quick search of my own writing files.  I found a note, scribbled in the sidebar of a talk I gave nearly ten years ago, when I was making the shift from the corporate world into graduate school.  Given the timing of client visits and other transitions, I had given my notice in April, while I wasn’t starting graduate school until August.  That was a lot of time!

I wrote:  “This period of waiting meant I had time to make peace with my new reality.  It gave me time to make amends with difficult people and situations; time to grieve all that could have been and projects that would be left incomplete; time to create closure on that chapter in my life and truly begin to discern my next career move.”

It’s funny how similar and appropriate those remarks are to my current transition.  These 10-months in between full-time jobs has given me the time and space to grieve and to say farewell to people who were important to me.  It’s also given me a tremendous amount of space to creatively imagine what the future holds and to discern God’s will in the midst of it all.

Again, Henri Nouwen speaks of the creativity of waiting:

To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.

I’ve been given every assurance that good news is coming soon.

Thanks for waiting with me.

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