Is it worth the wait? Find out how i was able to realize that waiting is a form of service.
THE SACRAMENT OF WAITING
by James Donnelan, SJ
The English poet John Milton once wrote that those who serve only stand and wait. I think I could go further and say that those who wait render the highest form of service. Waiting requires more self-discipline, more self-control and emotional maturity, more unshakeable faith in our cause, more unwavering hope in the future, more sustaining love in our hearts that the great deeds of deering-do that go by the name of action.
Waiting is a mystery – a natural sacrament of life – there is a meaning hidden in all the times we have to wait. It must be an important mystery because there is so much waiting in our lives.
Every day is filled with those little moments of waiting – testing our patience and our nerves, schooling us in self-control – paciencia lang. We wait for meals to be served, for a letter to arrive, for a friend to call or show up for a date. We wait on line at cinemas and theaters,concert and circuses. Our airline terminals, railway stations and bus depots are great temples of waiting filled with men and women who wait in joy for the arrival of a loved one – or wait in sadness to say goodbye and give that last wave of the hand. We wait for birthdays and
vacations – we wait for Christmas. We wait for spring to come – or autumn – for the rains to begin or to stop.
And we wait for ourselves to grow from childhood to maturity. We wait for those inner voices that tell us when we are ready for the next stop. We wait for graduation, for our first job, our first promotion. We wait for success and recognition. We wait to grow up – to reach the stage where we make our decisions.
We cannot remove this waiting from our lives. It is part of the tapestry of living – the fabric in which the threads are woven that tells the story of our lives.
Yet the current philosophies would have us forget the need to wait, “grab all the gusto you can get.” So read one of America’s great beer advertisement – Get it now. Instant pleasure – instant Transcendence. Don’t wait for anything. Life is short – Eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow you’ll die. And so they rationalize us into accepting unlicensed and irresponsible reedom – premarital sex and commitment – against expecting anything of anybody, or allowing them to expect anything of us – against vows and promises – against duty and responsibility – against dropping any anchors in the currents of our life that will cause us to hold and wait.
This may be the correct prescriptions for pleasure – but even that is fleeting and doubtful – what was it Shakespeare said about the mad pursuit of pleasure – “Past reason hunted, and once had, past reason hated”. No if we wish to be real human beings, spirit as well as flesh,
soul as well as heart, we have to learn to wait. For if not we never learn to love someone other than ourselves.
For most of all, waiting means waiting for someone else. It is a mystery, brushing by our face everyday like a stray wind or a leaf falling from a tree. Anyone who has ever loved knows how much waiting goes into it – how much waiting is important for love to grow – to flourish through a lifetime.
Why is this? Why can’t we have right now what we so desperately want and need? Why must we wait – 2 years, 3 years, 5 years and seemingly waste so much time? You might as well ask why a tree should take so long to bear fruit – the seed to flower – carbon to change into diamond.
There is no simple answer – no more that there is to life’s other demands – having to say goodbye to someone you love because either youor they have already made other commitments; or because they have to grow and find the meaning of their own lives – having yourself to leave home and loved ones to find your own path – Goodbyes, like waiting, are
also sacraments of our lives.
All we know is that growth – the budding, the flowering of love needs patient waiting. We have to give each other time to grow. There is no way we can make someone else truly love us or we them, except through time. So we give each other that mysterious gift of waiting – of being
present without making demands or asking rewards. But there is life in the gift we give.
So lovers wait for each other – until they can see things the same way – or let each other freely see things in quite different ways.
There are times when lovers hurt each other and cannot regain the balance and intimacy of the way they were. They have to wait – in silence – but still present to each other – until the pain subsides to an ache and then only a memory and the threads of the tapestry can be
woven together again in a single love story.
What do we lose when we refuse to wait? When we try to find short cuts through life – when we try to incubate love and rush blindly and foolishly into a commitment we are neither mature nor responsible enough to assume? We lose the hope of ever truly loving, of being loved.
Think of all the great love stories of history and literature – Isn’t it of their very essence that they are filled with this strange but common mystery – that waiting is part of the substance – the basic fabric -against which the story of that true love is written.
How can we ever either find life or true love if we are too impatient to wait for it?
Love is a painful risk to take but the risk must be taken for only then will you experience the fullness of humanity and that is love.