This contribution is from Ruth Alkema who contributes articles regularly both at Holy Trinity and Jerusalemkerk in Utrecht.
At the last meeting with the Christian Classics study group, I had some really nice conversations over dinner, and when I thought back on them, I realized that many of them seemed to revolve around the theme of waiting. Waiting before offering unwanted advice, waiting for Godot (that’s a strange play, about some people that are waiting very passively, if I understood correctly), and waiting for the Holy Spirit in the alpha course, and how scary that is (what if nothing happens?), and how important it is not to pry into someone else’s experience, but wait until that person is ready to share. Also, the book we were discussing was written by a woman who had seen visions, but waited twenty years before writing them down. All these different conversations set me off thinking about waiting. Waiting for God, and for the persons we meet. And God, is He waiting for us?
It is obvious from various texts in scripture, that God really wants to teach us to wait. In various psalms and prophesies he promises strength to those who wait. Moreover, people who did not wait got into trouble. Why would God make waiting so important? I used to think it was because He wants that we know really well that we depend totally on him and can do nothing without his help. But in the process of writing this text I realized that that is really not what a good friend would do. I now think that there is something truly beautiful in the act of waiting, just as sometimes in music the pauses are most special and filled with a longing that will make the next note really come out. God wants to teach this to us, so that we will know that joy of waiting too.
I think one of the ways in which we wait for God, is to look for (and expect to see) the gifts that God hid in the person we meet. There is such beauty in this kind of waiting, it will provide a safe place where the gifts can grow that would otherwise not be seen. And just as a farmer cannot help the plant grow by cutting open the seeds, so we also should really respect each other’s boundaries and wait. But with a receptive kind of waiting, open to being changed by what the other will say or do. I think this readiness to be changed is really most important, but also difficult and scary. Without this, we would only want the other to become just like us, which would make the meeting useless. But if we are open to change, the contact will be fruitful.
Another type of waiting for God that I have been trying out lately, is to try and be aware that God is present everywhere, and to expect to see his care for us in the events and persons that we meet. This gives me a more hopeful attitude, and really there have been meetings and events that made me feel very blessed. So, if we are looking out for God everywhere and really open to everyone, we will find true joy and all will be well all the time, right? Er.. not. Unfortunately at least that is not my experience. When the kids throw tantrums about nothing and all clothes and shoes are still wet from yesterday’s rain and the boots are nowhere to be found and I lose my temper so now at least the kids are crying for a reason, where is then the patience and friendliness for which we prayed just that morning and really: what went wrong? Deep sigh, I’m afraid this kind of thing makes me angry with God, I really don’t think he should need to rub it in so much that I am helpless without him. What kind of friendship is that?
So, after this really frustrating morning, I was back down to earth, and ready to see the other side of waiting. We may find it difficult to wait, but what about God? And talking about friendship, what kind of friend are we to God? Do we ever go to him just to be with him, because we love him, without hidden agenda full with things we want him to do for us? Do we ever listen to him, just because we are interested in his ideas, without immediately thinking, what has this to do with me? Do we ever ask him: what can I do for you? Isn’t it amazing how humbly God waits for us? He really wants to be our friend, He does not feel too high for that, He really longs to share his ideas, just as we do, and is happy when we listen, and although God is perfectly capable of solving all the world’s problems, He likes to have us cooperate with him. This is the most beautiful thing, the one thing that really breaks my heart: He waits.
That was unwise, of course. I should have prayed for everything to run smoothly without the slightest need for patience.
No need to answer this one. Please keep in mind what I said about waiting with unwanted advice.