June 29, 2017

Waiting to Live

A Place to Sit in Spring

Most of my life, I’ve been waiting to live.

The pattern has been like this: seasons of thinking about what it means to live and waiting to live and hoping to live, interrupted by moments of living.

I’ve spent most of my days thinking about life, pondering what will enable me to live. Hoping for that break that will allow me to live. Counting on that change that will lead me to circumstances in which I can live. Afraid that if I commit myself to living now, I will miss out on the real living that might have been.

Then, every once in awhile, life breaks through.

I hear my granddaughter giggle uncontrollably. I watch her dance around in a circle with an abandon that must be the very definition of joy, and I know my place in the world: I am like Abraham, the father who laughs, and the promise is in the seed. I live in my family.

I sit in a living room with an octogenarian, while her demented husband lies drooling on the pillow in his hospital bed next to her. Though we have known each other less than an hour, she entrusts some of her deepest feelings and fears to me. I live in her tears and whispered confidences.

A line in a sermon I am preaching catches me off guard and deeply moves me. I pause. I catch my breath. I hear myself speak more softly and personally, and the people in front of me are my friends. We connect. In the word on my lips, the Word that did not originate from me but which came like an unexpected breeze, I live.

Driving down the road, I sing along with a favorite tune. It surprises me when my voice breaks and my eyes tear up. There’s some kind of life in that music, life that swells in my chest, life that carries me away. I live in the song.

The greenest groomed grass, immaculately raked soil marked with white chalk, the shape of a precious diamond, the smell of oiled leather, and smack of honed wood on cowhide. A leisurely day in the sunshine. Narrative and tradition emanating from a radio speaker. I live in the baseball game.

A simple joke with a clever twist told by a friend catches me off guard and I find myself laughing from my belly. There’s life in the laughter.

A Sunday nap, the sound of rain blessing the surface of the land, recognizing the instant that taking the picture would capture the moment perfectly — and getting it, the anticipation before the thrill, the cool breeze in my face, the easy, effective partnership I have with my colleagues, the sense of relief and awe I feel when I’ve just had a near miss — life, the moments of life, the stuff of life.

And this is my vocation — to simply live. Having found life and having actually experienced living, I find I am much less anxious to search for it, to think I must change my circumstances, do something different, pursue some new interest, gain some new insight, achieve some new status. As Merton says,

Suppose one has found completeness in his true vocation. Now everything is in unity, in order, at peace. Now work no longer interferes with prayer or prayer with work. Now contemplation now longer needs to be a special “state” that removes one from the ordinary things going on around him, for God penetrates all.

I would not claim that this describes me, or that I am anywhere near “completeness in [my] true vocation.” Heavens no!  But I would testify to a bit more contentment, a bit less anxiety; a bit more acceptance, a bit less restlessness.

A bit less thinking about how to live, and a bit more living.

What on earth have we all been waiting for?

Comments

  1. Beautiful..just what I needed this morning. Thank you, Chaplain Mike.

  2. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    What on earth have we all been waiting for?

    Fluffy Cloud Heaven?

  3. You might say it goes back at least as far as Israel demanding a king and not allowing God to rule. That inability of the individual to summon intestinal fortitude, imagination, intuition, powers of perception and discrimination has been the lot of humankind for most of history. It can all be summed up as one of the seven deadly sins: sloth. We are both unwilling and fearful of living an original life that steps into the unknown and creates new patterns and new prints so we ask to repeat the lives of the ‘greats’ who have gone before us (the few who did live with originality). I will be the next Paul or Peter. I will be the next Abraham Lincoln. I will be the next Einstein. Brad and Jennifer. Now Brad and Angelina. Hero worship. Not to be harsh but it’s simple idolatry. The thing I won’t be is the one thing God handed me; me. Doing that subjects me to every possible criticism. “Quirky”. “Off kilter” or worse, “Heretic”. Much easier to waste my lifetime repeating worn out mantras devoid of their original life and ‘waiting’ to be something or someone that will never appear and hence never challenge.
    You could say I’ll be me. I’ll be the only dang one. You won’t be finding another because there is only one. I may do something great in the eyes of the world or that may never happen but what I do will be in tune with Christ in me, not the muse of another. I can be inspired by them but I will not ape them. You may not like how I do it and I’ll take notice. That may serve as a course correction if I deem it valid and can be humble enough to hear. What I won’t do is be subject to the discomfort of those who fear life and wish to squelch it wherever it pops up and threatens their status quo.

    Mike your post is beautiful. How liberating it is, and in truth what an easier yoke to labor under, to recognize the grace of God in the lot he has handed me and live just that to its fullest, knowing that it fits, it melds, it meshes perfectly into the fabric of His world.

  4. You and Merton summed it up perfectly.

    Good reminder…every day.

    Thanks for posting this.

  5. Every now and then something gets written or said that reminds me of two of my favorite short films. Today’s post is such a thing. The first one is perhaps more pertinent to the theme of (paraphrased) “the magic of living.”

    (And no, clicking on these won’t get you Rick Rolled.)

    https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2009/11/29/thats-magic/

    https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2009/12/21/validation/

    Each of these is 15 minutes and 16 minutes well-spent. Enjoy!!

  6. Most of my life, I’ve been waiting to live.

    The pattern has been like this: seasons of thinking about what it means to live and waiting to live and hoping to live, interrupted by moments of living.

    I’ve spent most of my days thinking about life, pondering what will enable me to live. Hoping for that break that will allow me to live. Counting on that change that will lead me to circumstances in which I can live. Afraid that if I commit myself to living now, I will miss out on the real living that might have been.

    Then, every once in awhile, life breaks through.

    I feel this strongly. This has been my life. Those moments when I’ve broken free of just settling have been life changing. But I rarely know how to do it myself, it almost seems to happen to me.

  7. This post I will save to reread from time to time. As I’ve done with Life is the Farm. Which reminds me, I need to reread that one today as well, it’s been awhile. Thank you CM. http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/58982

  8. Rick Ro. says:

    I just finished putting together a lesson for my church’s Saturday morning men’s fellowship using Henri Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” as the basis for discussion. This week’s topic: the resentful elder son.

    As I reflect on the “waiting to live” idea and laying that idea beside the parable of the prodigal son…wow! On the one hand you have the younger son demanding his part of his inheritance and then going off and blowing it all while NOT waiting to live (aka “living in the immediate”), but you also have the elder son who WAITED to live by doing what he was supposed to do, but he ends up becoming resentful because he never got to experience the joys of living.

    I guess the point might be…it doesn’t matter whether you live in the immediate or wait to live, just keep in mind our Father’s love for us and remember we are His children and His heirs and He just wants to be in communion with us.

  9. Beautiful, Mike!

  10. Paul Lee says:

    Yes. Thank you.