Reflections by Jerry Webber

Monday, August 16, 2010

Waiting in Hope: An Alternative Perspective

All eyes wait upon you hopefully
And when it is time you give them what they need
Opening your hand to satisfy them

(Psalm 145:16-17)

[Norman Fischer, Opening to You]

I'm pretty big on "waiting." That doesn't mean I do it well, but the act of waiting is an important spiritual discipline, a crucial part of prayer and contemplative openness. Waiting forces us to lose our sense of control and management over situations.

Waiting is not popular. "Don't just stand there . . . DO something!" is the motto governing popular culture. In that sense, waiting is counter-cultural, flowing against the grain of conventional wisdom. It is a contemplative act, trusting that God continues to be intimately and functionally involved in the affairs of the created world.

I frequently bring into my prayer my own resistance to waiting. I confess honestly my impatience and how narrow my vision is. I don't see big pictures. My scope is limited. So many life events are connected to so many other life-events that for me to presume a speedy resolution to some predicament is highly presumptuous.

When I prayed with Psalm 145:16-17 yesterday, though, I heard something else about waiting. I heard an alternative perspective to waiting.

It begins with a basic understanding of God's nature. One primary attribute of God is God's endless giving of Self. God is infinitely self-giving, never coming to the end of that giving away. God continually spends on the world what it means to be God . . . love, wholeness, well-being.

In the language of Psalm 145, God's hand is open all the time. Something like a waterfall that never comes to its end, God is spending God's Self always, without ever being diminished. God gives generously from a limitless reservoir.

In the Gospels, Jesus tells the story of a sower who scatters seed in all kinds of fields, without regard for the suitableness of the field or for the end-results of the seed-scattering. The seeds are sown indiscriminately, continually, across the expanse of the landscape. In interpretting the parable, we can understand God as the Sower, who generously scatters seed all the time. God's generosity knows no end.

On the other hand, my human experience is that I wait for God to act. I am hopeful that God will do something about my situation, about the situations of others, and about the situations of the wider world. This is the "waiting experience" from which the Psalms are written.

It struck me yesterday that if I truly believe that God is endlessly self-giving, then God is already generously giving away God's Self, already involved in life-situations, already scattering seed in my life-world.

Thus, my experience of "waiting on God" is actually more like waiting on myself . . . to awaken to what God is already doing, and then opening myself to receive it. From where I sit it looks and feels like waiting on God -- thus the many psalms which extol waiting -- but it actually is more like coming fully to the right time in my own life, the time when I will recognize what has been present all along.

The language I use is that of waiting on God. The reality is that I'm waiting on myself.

It is a long journey toward receiving what is there already. Perhaps you, like me, have learned the wisdom in the old adage, "When the student is ready, the teacher will come." Not uncommonly, the teacher has been there all along, but the student has not been ready to receive the teacher. Somehow, though, in the fullness of time we open up and we see as if for the first time what we may have missed forever.

For example, in my own experience I look back and notice that several important authors showed up in my life, all at just about the same time. I found Eugene Peterson, Richard Foster, and Thomas Keating as if they appeared all at once. So many opportunities for growth were given to me in a short span of time. In truth, those writers had been around for years, but I had ignored them.

Other life events had been screaming at me as well, but I didn't paid attention to them, either. Things that may have been God's "scattering of seeds" into my life, I considered inconsequential. I didn't pay attention, perhaps because the time was not right.

Bottom line: God was waiting on me to see, to open up, to receive . . . more than I was waiting on God.

I wonder if that's how it is with all of us. We think we're waiting on God to act. Then we look at life events and see things converging all at once. We experience some spiritual breakthrough. We notice suddenly something that energizes our spirit. We find that all of a sudden our soul feels alive. "Finally," we think. "Finally!" as if God had only at that moment started to work in our lives.

Yet, with the gift of perspective we notice that Someone had been knocking on our door for a long, long time. And we, thankfully, woke up at just the right time.


Pete the Brit said...

That is just what I needed to read today. Thank you.

Landon Schott said...

Jerry, thanks for your wonderful insights! I really got a lot out of reading this. Thanks.

Laura said...

I really needed to hear this today - ideal timing.
Thank you - Laura Gallier

Kimberly Walker said...

Something that I have been holding for some time now is, " the appointed time..." It was the "appointed time" that Christ was born to this earth. While reading your post today, Jerry, I "suddenly" saw something that I think is Truth. Biblical scholars tell me that Jesus is revealed to us in countless ways throughout the Old Testament. He is from the "first Adam" showing Himself in something/someone that, without eyes to see, we will miss. But He was there all the time. Even knowing how He looks I still don't "see" today. The truth be known, most of the time, if I had my druthers, I would want to control even when I "see". I not sure if I can really make myself do that before the "appointed time" or not; but, I do believe that with His Grace I can carve out space within me, if you will, so that I don't continue to miss my "appointed times".

Thank you, my friend, for continueing to give of yourself - spreading seed in your own special way!