September 10, 2011

Reflections: In waiting, we can find our way

By Teresa Schulz

Dan and I have a spiritual friendship; it evolved from a simple friendship. Our spiritual paths often cross. When this happens, we get together for a cup of coffee and talk about our spiritual journeys. We believe our spiritual journeys are a path to our authentic selves. In our search for our authentic selves, we often ask each other: "Where is God in all of this?"

REFLECTIONS is a column written by members of Maine's faith-based community. Opinions expressed in the column reflect the author's view and not necessarily that of the newspaper.

As I sipped my iced coffee and Dan removed the lid from his steaming dark roast, I realized this had become a ritual -- coffee followed by sharing our recent encounters and discoveries. A theme usually organically emerged from our conversations and this day was no exception. The theme was being lost -- losing our direction, our way, our focus and our path. Throughout the day, I reflected on this feeling of being lost.

What does it really mean to be lost? It has been said that as human beings, the idea of being lost is one of our most basic fears. This fear is woven into the very fabric of our being. Our experience of being lost is often met with frustration, confusion, fear, panic, anxiety or pain.

It is not often that our experience of being lost is embraced or met with a sense of adventure. As a result, many of us have a number of tools to help us stay connected, to stay on track and to avoid getting lost. These tools have become commonplace in our lives, including text messages, instant messages, emails, Google, Blackberrys, iPhones, Androids and GPS devices. In spite of these tools, we continue to miss the highway exits while talking on our cell phones or we enter the wrong addresses into our GPS devices.

While there are many ways to be lost, we also can become lost theologically by being separated from God. When we are separ-ated from God, we become separated from ourselves and from our relationships with others. We all are lost at times, but we often are unaware of how far we have wandered from ourselves, from others and from God.

We often look for quick solutions to ease our confusion and our fear. We want the fastest and the straightest path. We are lured by the seductive power associated with instant resolutions. Much of our energy is spent on shortcuts to get back on track so we can move even faster. "Quick and easy" becomes our mantra.

Our culture is not a culture of waiting; we simply don't like to wait. We don't like to wait in line, wait for an answer, wait for a purchase, wait for a meal or wait for others to speak. We also don't want to wait in our relationship with God or with others.

We want a quick answer regarding our spiritual path or our spiritual journey -- we want to know the next steps or what we are being called to do or to be. We think of waiting as unintentional. We do not think of waiting as a place that can be at the center of our lives. We simply believe that we should not have to wait; therefore it is difficult for us to be present in our own waiting.

In her book, "When the Heart Waits," Sue Monk Kidd speaks to the spirituality of waiting. She shares that the sacred intent of life, of God, is to move us continuously toward growth, toward rediscovering all that is lost within us and restoring the divine image -- the divine DNA imprinted on our soul.

It is in our waiting that we can often discover and understand feelings of being lost.

Dwelling in the unknown frightens us. While feelings of being lost and separated can cause us discomfort and pain, they can also bring forth transformation and rebirth.

Kidd identifies a threefold cycle of waiting: separation, transformation and emergence. During this cycle, we can embrace our spirituality and our relationship with each other and with God in a deeper way.

The spirituality of waiting has a long history. We read about the spirituality of waiting in sacred scripture. Noah waits for the flood waters to retreat, Jonah waits inside a whale's stomach, Sarah waits for a child, the Israelites wait in Egypt, the apostles wait for Pentecost, Mary waits for her child to be born, Paul waits in prison, Jesus calls the Apostles to wait, even Jesus waits for 30 years before he begins his ministry.

In their waiting, they all feel lost at times, lost on their journey, lost to themselves, lost to others and lost to God. Noah, Jonah, Sarah, Mary, Paul and Jesus experience both the joy and the sorrow associated with waiting -- awe, surprise, wonder, amazement, frustration, impatience, doubt, fear, loneliness, abandonment and even death.

As we reflected on waiting and being lost, Dan and I recalled how we sometimes take the wrong turn, we miss the point, we bump into things, we can't see the light, we don't trust and we can't immediately find our way back. However, when the waiting is over, there are feelings of joy, renewal, relief, calm, freedom and peace.

The Bible urges us to wait: "For thee do I wait all the day" (Ps 25:5); "Wait for thy God continually" (Hos. 12:6); "Wait for it; because it will surely come" (Hab 2:3); "My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning (Ps 130:6); "But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it" (Rom. 8:25).

In that last sip of coffee, we were reminded that waiting precedes the celebration. We must be present and we must be prepared to wait -- if not, we may miss the transcendent.

I recall hearing a quote recently: "Lost is a place too." This place can be spiritually fulfilling if we recognize it and we embrace it. While we all long to find our way -- and to arrive at our destinations -- the spirituality of waiting and being lost -- can teach us many things. People of faith recognize that we will be lost at times, and at times, we are called to wait.

Teresa Schulz is a spiritual director, lay theologian, retreat facilitator, lecturer, volunteer chaplain and co-founder of mainespiritus and Tools for Intentional Living (TILT)©. She may be contacted at:

teresa@mainespiritus.com

 

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