The Rev. Barbara Threet
A postcard arrived in the mail a few days ago which said, “Thanks for your bulb order. We have determined that in your area, it is too early to plant these bulbs. We are holding your order and will send them at the right time for spring planting. We appreciate your patience.”
Patience. Waiting. Sometimes it’s easy to wait. Every Sunday after announcing a hymn number, I pause until I see that most of you and especially any visitors have stopped turning pages. We wait in line at a pot-luck quite happily, chatting with those next to us. Waiting is easy. It’s hospitable: it even provides an opportunity for us to connect, and for new-comers to feel connected too.
But sometimes waiting is more difficult. This time of year, we’re waiting for spring. We can’t do a thing to hasten its arrival (OK, maybe we can order bulbs in a gesture of faith). But many of us are tired of winter, tired of ice, tired of heavy jackets and boots. What makes waiting so difficult is that we are powerless to bring about any change. The winter of the year, the winter of the soul or of a relationship or even of our health: waiting for winter to end is hard, whatever spring may entail.
Sometimes what makes waiting so hard is the uncertainty. A friend spoke recently about sending a birthday card to a family member that she hasn’t spoken to in over a decade, in a family full of such estrangements. There’s an apology in the card, and an invitation to start over. Now she’s waiting. Will the card come back ‘addressee unknown’, and what might that mean? Will the intended recipient mail it back unopened (which is what my friend did a few years back with a card from another family member)? Will there be a warm phone call? Or will she hear from another family member that she’s just incited more rage? Perhaps this will start a reconciliation – and my friend struggles with whether that would really be welcome or wise. Might this gesture start some healing in the family, or just widen the rifts? Often as we wait, we’re not even sure of what outcome we want. Once we know, it’s a bit easier: the test was positive so surgery is needed, or the new job didn’t pan out so you can just move on. But the waiting…
Waiting for the blizzard to hit or the baby to be born, even for the noise of traffic to stop. Waiting for someone to return from a trip, or to find out the results of the test (or the election!). Waiting for this difficult situation to end or at least resolve, or for some sign of what direction to go in. On massive and miniscule levels, much of our lives is spent waiting. Friends help. Singing might too (did you keep the songs from our service a few weeks ago?) So does gathering information, and exploring options while we – wait. We may need to learn acceptance of what we can’t change anyhow, whether we like it or not, or we may need to find the courage to dig into making the changes we can and move forward even when we’re a bit uncertain.
In this ‘waiting’ time of year, a prayer, adapted from one by the Rev. Kathleen McTigue:
Breathe in the truth of this moment;
Here is our strength, our deep well of courage.
Breathing in, we rest our spirits.
Breathing out, we pray for peace.
May those in harm’s way be safe for another day.
May those who wield power be stirred by compassion.
May we all hold the cup filled with courage, wisdom and hope,
And may we drink from it deeply, slowly, and often.
Shalom and Salaam,