Eagerness And Waiting
We have seen how easy it is to succumb to the temptation of evading our problems by the illusion of quick fixes, magical thinking, and by hiding behind regulations – all behaviours which betray our impatience with our anxiety and with other people’s need for listening - that is, in the end, our lack of true compassion.
A well-known page from the book of Ecclesiastes says that there is a time for everything a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up – and we can add to this list, ‘a time to seek for justice, to be pro-active in our forgiveness and love, and earnest peace-making, and a time to pause’ and “wait in silence for God alone” (Psa 62.1), “be still” and learn to delight in the assurance that “he is our God” (Psa 46.10), that God is in charge, that he guides history, and that salvation comes from him – as the passage from the book of Lamentations that we have just heard says: “It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord”.
Sometimes our very eagerness can become an obstacle to recognizing where and how God is acting in our lives. We so relish being in charge that we are not ready to welcome the surprising ways in which God makes himself near to us. Just as in the time of grief, there are no shortcuts, we have to endure the sense of emptiness and hopelessness, knowing that whether or not we are aware of it, they are healing something in us. We just have to wait.
Teresa of Avila in her Interior Castle warns us against a paradoxical form of blindness and deafness which is typical of our well-meaning earnestness. We get so caught up in the excitement of the technical challenges involved in fetching water from a distant lake or from a deep well through elaborate pipe systems andprodigiously effective pumps that we miss the spring welling up just behind the foliage near us and which brings the water directly to us, naturally and silently. Had we alternated our times of action and commotion with times of rest and silence, we would have perceived the spring’s gentle murmur and delighted in the freshness of its water.
One of our greatest temptations in life is to want to control everything – even our relations, included with God, even what we do “for God”. We need to learn the crucial skill of staying still though, and not mistake it with laziness. Waiting is not passivity, but the moment when we let our desire for God’s salvation do the work. According to Teresa, this very desire is the God-given living water that wells up from within.