Today we wait, as Christians who already know what tomorrow brings. How lucky are we, to know that tomorrow he is risen (indeed!)?
What would it be like to wait today, as if we did not know about his resurrection?
Waiting reminds us of our powerlessness, as Margaret Guenther attests in “The Spiritual Director as Midwife.” In a culture of action and doing, we are rendered almost beyond help when required to wait. When we wait, we are in “inaction,” being “done unto.” Guenther cites the work of W.H. Vanstone here, who “points out the radical change in Jesus from action to passion.” Christ goes from performing miracles, to the garden where he prays for a different outcome, should God wish it.
Like all of us when waiting, he asks for an outcome. The waiting is so human and the desire for it to end even more so. Here, Christ shows us his humanity, right before again showing us his divinity. He moves, like Vanstone notes, from action to passion - from doing to the very human place of being “done unto.”
Guenther talks about how so many of us our required to live in this place of being “done unto” in our culture: retirees who are no longer in control of their earning potential; survivors of violence; the sick and dying; the unemployed. I might add children coming out, who are unsure if they will be accepted by their families, churches, and communities of origin. Or we could think of refugees, who have lost their homes and so much else, unsure if they will be accepted in the place where they are going. Guenther tells us that our great gift to those being “done unto” is presence. There are some things that just can’t be hurried, but if we can be present and wait with someone, we might just “model an acceptance” and “invite exploration of its holy emptiness.”
In other words, while there’s essential humanity in the waiting, there’s always something deeply holy. For me, waiting is one of the places where I am offered the opportunity to become closest to God and the things I’ll never fully comprehend.
Waiting with my grandfather, in hospice.
Waiting for a partner’s father to come out of surgery after a stroke, and then another’s after a heart attack.
Waiting in the delivery room with my sister and brother-in-law, for my nephew to arrive into the world.
Waiting for my ex-wife to decide if she wanted to give our marriage another shot.
In all these moments of waiting, I felt suspended in something bigger than me. Like Christ in the garden, I also had an idea of what I desired as an outcome. Sometimes, I even cried out for it. For my grandfather to go peacefully. For the surgeries to be successful. For a healthy and relatively painless birth. For my wife to come back. Like Christ though, I knew that my will was not the holy thing being offered. In waiting, I was being offered a life that I didn’t always have to control. There, I find my faith.
I imagine in prayer what it would be like to wait today, unaware that tomorrow he will rise. What work would my grief reveal? Would I wish that I had spent more time with him when I could have? Would I wish I spent less time in skepticism and more in belief? Would I freeze up and harden my heart, painfully aware that I’ve fallen in love with one who is gone? Would I be looking for a new savior, the next thing to bring me to my knees, too afraid to live without him? Would I diminish him and betray my own heart, as a protection from the grief?
What would waiting reveal for you today?
Sit with it. Don’t push it away. Sit with it in others. Don’t solve it. Just sit with it.
Tomorrow, let us come to him astonished, fully ready to experience life through the impossible.
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