LENTEN CONNECTIONS 2016: The Productivity of Waiting

Lent: A Time to Prepare

I am afflicted with a troubling illness.  It’s called “hurry sickness.”  It is an illness that afflicts many of us, this insatiable need to accomplish too much or take part in too many events in the amount of time available.  Dr. Meyer Friedman, who coined the phrase “hurry sickness,” says that we who live with this syndrome have two strategies for accomplishing more and more and more.  Either we speed up everything we do or we try to do or think of more than one thing at a time.  Perhaps Millennials can multitask—for them it is the norm—but for Baby Boomers like me it is depleting!
For those of us who suffer with “hurry sickness,” the 40 days of Lent have the potential to accentuate the symptoms of the disease, because in order to engage meaningfully in times of confession and contemplation, we have to slow down.  That’s hard to do when for the other 325 days of the year we are simply “skimming” in life, never being fully present anywhere—we just “skim.”  This shallowness of life is a far cry from the deep, abundant life Jesus offers His followers.  Already during the first weeks of Lent, I’ve heard the Spirit’s whisper, “There is so much more to life than you are presently experiencing.  I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.”  (John 10:10).  But my “hurry sickness” gets in the way of experiencing the abundant life Jesus offers.  Jesus calls thirsty people to come and drink deeply.  He offers the refreshment of “streams of living water that flow from within” (John 7:38).  It’s a vivid image of abundance.  It makes “skimming” so unsatisfying.
It is hard to wait on God when you are fighting “hurry sickness.”  I think about how Jesus, during His earthly life, dealt with the busyness of life.  In Mark’s Gospel, Chapter One, Jesus has been casting out demons and healing the sick all day long.  Even at evening, after sunset, the Gospel writer tells us that “the whole city was gathered together at the door,” bringing the sick and demon possessed to Him for healing.  The needs were relentless.  Sure, He was God, but He walked among us as a man.  These were exhausting days for Jesus.  Philippians 2 reminds us that when Jesus was on earth, He limited himself to doing ministry in dependence on the Holy Spirit within him; He walked among people as a man, dependent on the Holy Spirit as the source of His power. The needs of people sucked Him dry (see Mark 5:30).  So what does Jesus do?  Mark tells us that very early in the morning, while it was still dark (4:00 or 5:00 a.m.), He goes to a lonely place to wait on His Father.  He is waiting on the Father for a fresh filling of His Spirit, asking the Spirit to replenish what has been sucked out of him in the busyness of His day.
Waiting feels so unproductive for one who battles “hurry sickness.”  But try it!  There is a certain productivity in waiting!  As I come to the Father, I acknowledge my emptiness, my brokenness, my neediness.  Waiting suggests a posture of dependence on God.  That’s what took the Son of God to a solitary place.  He needed the Father.  Waiting also suggests a posture of expectation.  As I wait on the Father, I acknowledge that God is a God of grace.  And as I wait, I begin to realize that the wait itself is a gift of grace.
My body and soul tell me that I need to be filled again—and again—and again.  I long for the streams of living water that Jesus promised.  Waiting is not only beneficial because of what we will receive at the end of the wait.  Waiting is about what we become as we wait, because in some inexplicable way the wait itself changes us.  I no longer need to be in control.  I no longer need to prove I am competent or needed.  Waiting on God stills the pounding of my heart; it makes me realize how much I need the refreshing stream of the Spirit.  In some inexplicable way there is a productivity in waiting, even for a self-confessed Type A person like me.
Scriptural mediation while you wait:  Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me.  Watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matt 11:28-30 The Message)

Submitted by Miriam Charter