We wait for much, do we not? And conditioned are we to defend ourselves against this posture and we use every tool we can to avoid that quiet distance between departure and arrival. Whether it be at a stop light, in a ferry line, or stuck in red-light traffic, we quickly deploy means to lessen the wait. Let’s be honest, despite the laws of safety in place to prohibit such behaviors, we may quickly check our smartphones for an email response from a friend, update our Facebook status and even get caught up on Twitter. Radios get turned on, phone calls are placed and what would’ve been just waiting time, just actually became highly productive and we drive through the green-lighted intersection already more ahead than when we initially stopped.
And while it be Advent, a time pregnant with the charge to watch and wait, we are summoned by seasonal sales, called out to by copious Christmas carols, and booked solid with events, parties and gatherings. We certainly don’t want to…wait for it-whatever that IT may be. But it is certain that the thrill of the season is made available even as soon as Thanksgiving night. And the gifts that often come with the wait become elusive and hard-found amidst all the glitter, gaiety and lights.
Fair enough, but are there things in our lives for which we are actually waiting, things we simply cannot rush–rush delivery or otherwise? I’m talking about threshold seasons, where we are called to depart from one way of being and enter another. The threshold is that moment of stepping over, and into, a new region, a new landscape; it is that moment of tension between goodbye and welcome. It is a waiting place, however short that stride may be, over the decisive line that divides the what was from what is hoped for. This goes beyond the sense of waiting in line at the grocery store (isn’t your phone already out by then?). This is waiting for the heavy-with-meaning things of life to shift, move and heal…and it is wearing work.
This sense has been heavy within me this week as I find that I am weary of this great call to wait; and yet, I have been reminded that it is in this waiting where our strength is reclaimed and renewed.
My dear mother just had major back surgery two weeks ago and I’ve been bedside to her up in Snohomish, WA in this post-op time. I’ve been waiting with her for her strength to be revived and this sort of tension is near exhausting, I must admit! However, last week as I was abiding with my mom, three majestic bald eagles flew over my parent’s pasture and lighted upon a large evergreen tree east of her living room window. The Psalmist words sung in my heart and never did this ancient verse feel so true: “They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint,” (Isaiah 40:31) and the contemporary song of this verse continues with the sweet bidding, “Teach me Lord, teach me Lord to wait.”
There is something, something that is of deep soul-value in these seasons of life that summon us to the quiet, in between times. These are the times that simply cannot be rushed and require us to be ‘bed-side’ to something greater, and beyond, ourselves. Today many people may describe their lives as being ‘in transition.’ This phrase can describe relationships, work, location; or more significantly, to the inner work of the soul or world view. Technology changes our realities daily as do any such standards in our communities. In a culture where speed and development are so highly regarded, this certainly places our psyche constantly under relentless strain. However, the word ‘transition’ seems flimsy and light to the real work of waiting that ‘threshold’ requires. The late poet, John O’Donohue, says it this way:
Originally, ‘threshold’ related to the word ‘thresh’, which was the separation of the grain from the husk or straw when oats were flailed (often at the doorways of homes). It also includes the notions of ‘entrance’, ‘crossing’, ‘border’ and ‘beginning’. To cross a threshold is to leave behind the husks and arrive at the grain. -John O’Donohue, Benedictus (2007)
With this sense of the word, there actually is action. This needn’t be a quiet waiting. We can ask questions, we can seek answers, we can thresh. This is the movement of one who is waiting for something that was to become something made new. And it is in this movement, in this threshold-crossing, shaking and separating that strength and renewal is found. This is the place where the Spirit resides; this is where Strength and Love fully exist to give us the means to survive, and thrive!, once we have crossed over into new and unknown territories. This threshing, this waiting, is what results in the glorious grain that will feed and nourish us as we move forward on our life’s journey.
So, I find that I am leaning into this waiting time with hopeful expectation that there will be a renewal of strength and stamina, both for my mom in this healing season, but for myself personally in this Advent time. I greatly anticipate the “grain” of this waiting, this threshing, season!