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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Waiting

It seems we are all waiting for something. Whether it be our next meal, or some intangible thing that will change our lives forever.

I have been reminded recently of the power of waiting and the good it can do. I think I'd better start by saying that I hate waiting. It is one of the most uncomfortable and excruciating things I do. I try to distract myself and skip to the end with a thousand tricks that I play on myself to help me bear the unbearable burden of trying to control something that is so hilariously out of my control.

Sometimes I think that I wait because I have reached the end of what I can do and therefore can do nothing else except wait. However, I think that even when I am forced to wait, or I'm angry or afraid or anxious for something present to be over or something new to come, I am doing something more than just waiting. I am being forced to hope; practicing hopefulness; looking forward to something else because I am not satisfied that where I am is the end of the journey. The very act of waiting is what belies our hopes: the things we wait for would not mean as much to us if we were not willing to wait for them and through waiting, we assign value. I think those moments between what we look forward to and where we are, are when we wait, and when we wait, we hope. However, I do not think that is automatic to hope during a time of waiting; I am convinced that it is, and it must be like so many other things in life, a choice. Also, as a sidenote, it is not cowardly to wait or to hope: it is an enormous risk, and sometimes requires more courage than trying your best to 'make something happen,' simply because it is one of the most vulnerable places a human being can be in. And vulnerability takes bravery. It is no accident that the only thing left in Pandora's Box was hope: its dangerous.

Life is not always pleasant, or fun, or exciting. I know I spend a lot of time trying to escape from doldrums that I have found on my seas, or run through the times that I should really walk through; times when things around me are good and I will not notice them. I know that it is not pleasant, or fun, or exciting to wait, and waiting is when all of our expectations and comparisons and impatience and ambition rise up in bitter protest, and the frustration of trying gauge the distance to an interminable goal is sometimes as disheartening as the disappointment we feel when we reach them. But it is not by accident that 'its worth the wait' has turned into a cliche, and its not an accident that most cliches are true. I think there are a lot of things in life that are worth waiting for because at the end of the wait is something that truly silences disappointments and expectations and fears, and anything that can do that is worth quite a lot.

I think it is also important, with all this talk about hope, to say that I think what you wait and hope for is just as important as the wait itself. Obviously I hope that anything I hope for that will do me harm will never come, and those miraculous life-giving things will come faster, but it also matters who I wait and hope for. I hope in people, and for people, and with people. However, as much as I want to be with people and trust in people, I must say that the Bible, as always, says it best:  "Wait upon the Lord," the Psalmist tells us, "Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord." Again, in Isaiah: "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings like eagles."

The last lines of The Count of Monte Cristo have stuck with me over the years. They are words of advice from a old man to a younger and they are especially relevant right now: "Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget that, until the day God deigns to reveal the future to man, the sum of human wisdom will be contained in these two words: wait and hope."

Though it is not easy and doesn't seem sexy or anything other than a waste of time, I hope that I can embrace the waiting in my life as something valuable and misunderstood. Everyone is waiting for something and I hope we always will be.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Trust

One thing that is giving me a lot of trouble lately, is trust. I've found that it is not as easy in practice as it is in theory. I find myself reaching the end of what I can control and then collapsing into something that  resembles numbness instead of trust.

The thing is, is that God, (so far as I found to be true in my life) is trustworthy. This is good news for people like me that are control-freaks and take on the responsibility for every facet and piece of their lives. However, going from clinging tightly to life, as is my first instinct (like hanging on to the bars on a roller coaster) to trusting God with every circumstance, anxious thought and disorder in my life (letting go and putting my hands in the air) is a very difficult transistion. I've been asking myself why that is so hard to do. I tell myself that if I really believe God is who He says He is, then it should be a piece of cake; that if it is difficult to trust Him then I am a particularly bad brand of sinner that doesn't deserve true happiness anyway. However, I don't think this is true. I think God is much more patient with me than I am with myself. 1 Peter 5:7 says: "cast your anxiety on God, for He cares for you." Again in Matthew 11:28: "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." This does not sound like a God who expects us to either always be happy all the time, or have our lives figured out. I think He expected us not to trust Him, and is encouraging us to anyway.

I often think that it is up to me to figure out my life and how it should go. Believe me, I have a very clear picture of who I should be. I'm also starting to realize that God may have some other plans, and being in the midst of those plans is really proving difficult: I just want to get to the end and see who I am becoming. However, it is these anxieties that I'm feeling, these heavy burdens that I carry in the midst of change and troubling times, that God calls me to give to Him in exchange for rest. I am not called to enjoy the pain and chaos of life, but instead, invited to not carry their weight.


I'm starting to catch on to the fact that, whether I believe it or not, God holds me in the palm of His hand. Even as I accept that I don't know what He is doing in my life, and may not know for quite a while, that doesn't change the fact that He is doing something with and in me. And I can trust that He knows what He is doing, and that it is for my good. This verse from Romans says it a lot better than I can: "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, 'For your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, not depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:35-39 

I hope this encourages you as much as it has encouraged me. 


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Friends

In the Lord of the Rings, there is a point where the small company of companions who are tasked with destroying the Ring of evil power are trapped outside the mines of Moriah. In frustration they wait and get anxious and grumpy until finally Frodo realizes that the lock on the door is a riddle and the answer to the riddle is "friend." They all walk through, companions all, perhaps not all great friends.

I wanted to use this example because oftentimes, and especially in this day and age, it seems as if friendship, and the way in which we relate to one another in healthy and good ways, is somewhat of a riddle too. Why is that?

I have heard numerous times, even from myself, that "I just want friends." I think what we mean by that is that we'd like someone who understands us and our interests and likes, and will walk with us to the ends of the earth in pursuit of those things because they are just as interested in them as we are. The trouble that we encounter when we expect these kind of friendships to appear seems to come from a couple different problems. First, it seems that, as a society, we are under the impression that it is our right to be befriended and understood. Personally, I think that from a certain point of view, friendship has been given to us as a privledge if not a right, but before we can take advantage of that privledge we are stopped by the second problem. The second problem is movement. C.S Lewis talks about this at length in his book, The Four Loves. He says that friendships are based on mutual interest and attaining a common goal, which is clear enough, but also that it is about a common journey; separating yourselves in a sort of rebellion from an established way of thinking and setting off on your own in search of a goal.

The characters in Lord of the Rings who were trapped outside Moriah all had something in common: they were going to help Frodo destroy the Ring. Their companionship revolved around that single thing, despite all having different motives as to why they personally had to go. The possibility and opportunity of converting companions into friends was present as long as they were together. There were some, like Aragorn and Legolas or Frodo and Sam that were even farther removed from the general group because they found a more kindred, common ground between them. They were, therefore, better friends, but all of those that went with Frodo were on the same journey and had closely related interests; the opportunity was there.

All this to say, I think it is the journeying together that we miss so often in the modern age of friendship. I lie on the side of the road and hope for friends, while the only friends really worth having are already walking on the road to their destination, intent on the journey. I must get up and start my own journey, moving towards what I believe to be right and what draws me toward it. If I have any hope of finding like-minded people, I will find them on the way. Lewis expresses this point so deftly when he says: "Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow travelers."

I think to truly enjoy friendship and the friends waiting to be made we must stop focusing on finding friends and instead, focus on the journey, content with knowing that there are a few fellow travelers going the same way.