how easy it is to get impatient when you are unsure if there is something to wait for. i need to be constantly reminded that life is a series of awhiles and in-betweens. everything is transitory.
The Sacrament Of Waiting
by Fr. James Donelan, S.J.
The English poet John Milton wrote that those who serve only also stand and
wait. I think I would go further and say that those who wait render the highest form of
service. Waiting requires more discipline, more self-control and emotional maturity,
more unshakable faith in our cause, more unwavering hope in the future, more
sustaining love in our hearts that all the greatest deeds of deering-do go by the name of
Waiting is a mystery – a natural sacrament of life – there is a Meaning hidden
in all the times we have to wait. It must be an important Mystery because there is so
much waiting in our lives.
Everyday is filled with those little moments of waiting (testing our patience and
our nerves, schooling us in self-control.) We wait for meals to be served, for a letter to
arrive, for a friend to call or show up for a date. We wait in line at cinemas and theaters,
concerts and circuses. Our airline terminals, railway stations and bus depots are great
temples of waiting filled with men and women who wait in joy for the arrival of a loved
one – or wait in sadness to say goodbye and give the last wave of hand. We wait for
springs to come – or autumn – for the rains to begin and stop.
And we wait for ourselves to grow from childhood to maturity. We wait for
those inner voices that tell us when we are ready for the next stop. We wait for
graduation, for our first job, our first promotion. We wait for success and recognition. We
wait to grow up – to reach the stage where we make our own decisions. We cannot
remove this waiting from our lives.
It is a part of the tapestry of living – the fabric in which the threads are woven to
tell the story of our lives. Yet current philosophies would have us forget the need to wait
“grab all the gusto you can get.” So reads one of America’s greatest beer ads – get it
now! Instant pleasure, instant transcendence. Do not wait for anything.
Life is short – eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow you will die. And so
they rationalize us into accepting unlicensed and irresponsible freedom- pre-marital sex
and extra marital affairs – they warn against attachments and commitments – against
expecting anything of anybody, or allowing them to expect anything of us – against
dropping any anchors in the currents of our life that will cause us to hold and wait.
This may be the correct prescription for pleasure – but even that is fleeting and
doubtful – what was it Shakespeare said about the mad pursuit of pleasure – “Past
reason hunted, and once had, past reason hated.” Not if we wish to be real human
beings, spirit as well as flesh, soul as well as heart, we have to learn to wait. For if we
never learn to wait, we will never learn to love someone other than ourselves.
For most of all waiting means waiting for someone else. It is a mystery,
brushing by our face everyday like a stray wind of leaf falling from a tree. Anyone who
has loved knows how much waiting goes into it – how much waiting is important for love
to grow, to flourish through a lifetime.
Why is this? Why can we not have it right now what we so desperately Want
and need? Why must we wait – two years, three years – and seemingly waste so much
time? You might as well ask why a tree should take so long to bear fruit – the seed to
flower – carbon to change to diamond.
There is no simple answer – no more than there is to life’s other demands –
having to say goodbye to someone you love because either you or they have made
other commitments; or because they have to grow and find the meaning of their own
lives – having yourself to leave home and loved ones to find your own path – good-byes,
like waiting, are also sacraments of our lives.
All we know is that growth – the budding, the flowering of love needs patient
waiting. We have to give each other a time to grow. There is no way we can make
someone else truly love us or we them, except through time. So we give each other
that mysterious gift of waiting – of being present without asking demands and
rewards. There is nothing harder to do than this. It truly tests the depth and sincerity of
our love. But there is life in the gift we give.
So lovers wait for each other – until they can see things the same way – or let
each other freely see things in quite different ways. There are times when lovers hurt
each other and cannot regain the balance of intimacy of the way they were. They
have to wait – in silence – but still present to each other – until the pain subsides to an
ache and then only a memory and the threads of the tapestry can be woven together
again in a single love story.
What do we lose when we refuse to wait; when we try to find shortcuts through
life – when we try to incubate love and rush blindly and foolishly into a commitment we
are neither mature nor responsible enough to assume?
We lose the hope of truly loving or of being loved. Think of all the great love
stories of history and literature – isn’t it of their very essence that they are filled with
this strange but common mystery – that waiting is part of the substance – the basic fabric
against which the story of that true love is written.
How can we ever find either life or true love if we are too impatient to wait for