I’m just becoming aware of how the life journey sometimes feels more like standing still than moving on. I’ve been on my “sabbatical” for almost a year now, and while in the beginning it felt like I was crossing a bridge, leaving one landscape for another, one vocation (and in a way one “life”) for another, now I realize I’ve only been standing still in the middle of a larger, longer bridge than I understood, on a path that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere definite and holds no sense of urgency. The path runs in one direction; it is not like a crossroads where choices need to be made. It just needs me to move along. But for this time, at least, everything feels very still, wreathed in mist and filled with a sense of waiting. For the first time I’m also aware as much of the river flowing beneath the bridge and away from me as of the path that is open before me.
So here is the icon of my life through these months of Sabbath and searching: the misty, almost dreamy landscape that surrounds me, the stream of life I’m no longer fully engaged in flowing along far below without me, the path behind me and the path before me stretching out while I stand in the middle, in stillness, in this silent space carved out of time. There’s a spaciousness in this picture I hadn’t realized before, but there’s also a simplicity, almost an emptiness, and a hint of mystery.
The spiritual life is often like this – maybe more often than I knew. (Maybe I was just too impatient all those other times to stand still and notice what was really going on.) Anyway, from the outside it looks like stasis, but from the inside it feels like simply waiting. And there has always been a lot of waiting in my life. Waiting to grow up. Waiting to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Waiting for Christmas to come, for pain to stop, for the love of my life to show up, for the Lord to get me out of trouble, for something (almost anything) to happen, for some consolation or gift to arrive —or waiting just for an end to the waiting…
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that what’s important about waiting is how we do it, how we inhabit the waiting time in the midst of its passing. As the preacher of Ecclesiastes said:
1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot… 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away…11 [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
It’s how we live the time that makes all the difference, the attitude and awareness we bring to waiting through it. Like most things it’s a matter of balance. I need to act, to do something, because even God “can’t steer a parked car.” But I also need to recognize the right time for movement, the right time for taking the next step. As for me and this time in my life, I’m trying not to judge myself for not moving farther and faster, for taking my time to pause in the middle and ponder while I wait to know what the next step needs to be.
Whatever the times are like for you now, I hope you listen to the wisdom within that will guide you to stay or to go, to move on or be still and wait. God bless you on your journey.