This past Friday I went to Des Moines and sat at the car dealership for 5 hours. This was a completely planned visit in order to take care of recall repair on my truck . Evidently, certain years of the Honda Ridgeline have a flaw in their rear end in that the place where the gas tank is held on had been proven to rust out over time, causing gas tanks to just fall off and blow up as people were heading down the road. Since I desired a different outcome, I made the appointment and planned for the marathon visit.
I packed an entire backpack of goodies: My laptop and chargers, headphones, three books (as if I would magically become a speed reader or something), and my Christmas cards. I packed a rolled up towel to put behind me in the small of my back to help with all of the sitting I was about to do, and I also packed a shaker bottle of water. I was set.
And the truth is, I didn't find the waiting hard. I got all of my Christmas cards written. I got introduced to a new show on Netflix. And I figured out how to use my phone as a hotspot for my computer because, well, "free wifi" isn't always what it's cracked up to be. The waiting wasn't difficult because I was prepared to receive what it had to offer.
I know the late, great, lyrical poet, Tom Petty, told us all that "The Waiting is the Hardest Part," but I have to wonder if it's more that it feels like the hardest part because we so often fight against it. We complain about long waits and delayed shipments because we are "Amazon Prime 2-day shipping" people who are sometimes forced to live in an "allow 6-8 weeks for delivery" world. And when that happens--especially when it happens without our consent--we tend to push back...hard. We demand that someone or something move on our timetable. We demand that our cries, our laments, and our desires are heard.
Don't get me wrong--movement, action, and being seen and heard are all important. AND, now is not always the time for them. We may believe that now is the time. We may desperately want for now to be the time. We may even act as if now is still the time even when the universe has shown us that it is decidedly not. But sometimes, standing still and silence are all that fills our now's.
Fr. Richard Rohr says, "At times we have to step into God’s silence and patiently wait. We have to put out the fleece as Gideon did (Judges 6:37-40), and wait for the descent of the divine dew, or some kind of confirmation from God that we are on the right course. That is a good way to keep our own ego drive out of the way." And isn't it really always ego that suggests to us that we deserve to move through the world getting what we want when we want it?
At the end of the end of the day, I think the waiting can be a gift if we let it. Waiting can offer us opportunities to take a break from the break-neck speed at which most of us live our lives in order that we may do nothing or do those things that we so easily rush through or put on the shelf for another day. Waiting can be liberative and life-giving.
In this season of waiting that we call Advent, may we be people for whom the waiting is not the hardest part...it is the part that can free us and give us a much-needed rest.
Waiting with you,
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen was called as the pastor of St. Paul Congregational UCC in June of 2020. Prior to her call to St. Paul, Pr. Melissa worked as a hospice chaplain in the Ames, IA area, following pastorates at rural churches in Central Iowa and Southern Illinois. Pr. Melissa is a second-career pastor with a background in agribusiness and production & supply operations. She received her M.Div. from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO, and holds a MA Ed. in Adult Education and Training, and a BA in Organizational Communications.