Parson to Person: The art of waiting
I frequently visit nursing homes to hold religious services. (I tell my friends I’m comparison shopping and admit I’m beginning to look the part). These older people all seem to be waiting...waiting...waiting, but for what?
The poet T.S. Eliot has said that the hardest part of faith is the waiting. How very true.
All of life is a great waiting game. We wait for summer, we wait to get a driver’s license, we wait for our children to grow up, at the end of life we may join these masters of waiting in the nursing home.
We have all heard the expression, “life is one damned thing after another.” Well, thank God for such a rhythm that merciful – just one damned thing at a time. Stephen Hawking, considered by some to be our new Einstein, recently defined time as that which keeps everything from happening at once. Not bad!
Waiting is how we deal with one of life’s greatest mysteries, Time.
Just what is it? No one seems to know – it is gone before you know it, it’s everywhere and none. We can only give it an operational definition which is little better than defining light as what makes the lamp shine.
The Jews have been waiting some three thousand years for their Messiah. Christians have been waiting two thousand years for the Kingdom of God and Muslims since the Seventh Century for the one they call the Madhi. All lives of holy waiting.
Running through the Old Testament is the Jewish plea, “How long, O lord?”
Sam Becket in the 1950s wrote his Absurdist play, “Waiting for Godot.” It is an insane conversation between the tramps, Vladmir and Estragon, who are waiting for someone named Godot (God). “He said he’d meet us here,” says one of them. “I wonder what’s keepin him,” says the other.
The only action in the play is when a young man comes to say, “Godot is coming!” “When?” they ask. “Oh, today or maybe tomorrow...or someday.” And so they wait and so do we.
John Milton in the 1600s became blind in the middle age and penned the immortal words, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” I recite that cautiously if not reverently around my nursing home congregations.
Best of all we have the scripture of Jesus’ favorite prophet, Isaiah:
They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.