DeacoNote 15: The Lost Art Of Waiting
November 23, 2022
I have to confess that I have a fair amount of disdain for the clock. While I recognize a certain utility in coordinating the efforts of any group comprised of more than one person, I prefer to think of it as an informal advisor, rather than the ruler, that it purports to be from time to time.
This attitude has been enshrined in a gift, that has hung above my home office desk ever since I retired. It looks like a clock. It has hands that go around, and it has all the numbers from 1 to 12. But rather than finding them neatly arrayed around the clock's circumference, the numbers are just all in a jumbled up heap at the bottom, with the words "What Ever!" emblazoned across the face. One of my grandchildren, who had grown up with only digital clocks, once asked me, "how do you tell time?" My answer was, "what makes you think, I want to tell time?" The world seems to run at a frantic pace, especially as we approach the year-end holiday season. And while the retail industry keeps trying to move it up in the calendar, that season historically begins around Thanksgiving. It is a secular holiday, having its origins in the Pilgrim lore of the Plymouth Plantation. It was reputed to have been a day of thanks. The 51, who had survived that first disastrous year, gave thanks, while at the same time, found themselves in sober reflection, at the memory of the other 51 family members in their original party of 102, that perished in trying to make that day possible. In our own time, we also tend to focus on family relationships, featuring multi-generational meals. Interestingly, when I think back to my earliest Thanksgiving memories, the one thing that always jumps out is the waiting. How time came to a stop, and we just waited. For, both Thanksgiving and Christmas in my childhood home revolved around the arrival of my grandmother. The only Thanksgiving specific song I know is, Over The River And Through The Woods. The first verse has these words,
Over the river and through the woods to grandfather's house we go the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through white and drifted snow.
And the third verse begins with these words,
Over the river and through the woods and straight thro' the barnyard gate we seem to go extremely slow it is so hard to wait
In our case, my grandmother would come to our house. My uncle would drive her over the river and through the rural wooded route to our house for Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas breakfast. There were no super highways and in bad weather the road could be quite treacherous in spots. When this happened, my uncle would have to take the longer route along the river bed to avoid certain unplowed hills. In an age before cell phones it meant that my grandmother's arrival could not be predicted with any certainty. As a result, we prepared everything. And then we waited. Quietly. As a young boy, it seemed like the wait was "for ever!" No matter how long it took, there was never a rush. We took our time easing into the meal and then lingered over desert, or coffee, or whatever the adults drank at that time. There was almost a reverence about it - time seemed to slow to a glacial pace - to allow you to savor each morsel, every word of every conversation, good to the last drop, acted out. Over 60 years later, what I recall most about those meals, was the waiting. When time seemed to stand still, the cares and hustle and bustle of the world were somehow temporarily suspended in that little cocoon of family fellowship. And no one looked at the clock. It is probably this memory, more than Biblical scholarship, that I think forms the basis for my understanding of the verse,
Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God.
And its companion,
Isaiah 40:31 But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
These are an interesting set of verses. When God commands us to "Be still" in the Psalm, it is the same thing that Jesus says in
Mark 4:39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet!, Be still!" Then the waves died down and it was completely quiet.
Sometimes we get so caught up in our striving and doing, that we lose sight of who God is and what He is capable of. He is telling us to stop our striving, stop our struggling, and take time to be in His presence. And by that, I mean be present yourself - not distracted internally or externally, not thinking about your bills, or what is for dinner, or what tomorrow will bring, or even, what you will say next. Be present and allow yourself to come to a full understanding of who and what God is in all His awesomeness - a practice, Rev. Dale Edwards might describe as one of the classic Christian disciplines. I had the privilege of having dinner with one of my youngest grandchildren this week. He is in college and is a good 5 inches taller than I am. As someone who will be seeking to enter the workforce in the not too distant future, he asked me what characteristics I used to look for, back in the day, when I used to hire people. One of the things I told him, was to be present and engaged. Be present and engaged, so that you soak everything in, let nothing escape your attention. This is what God looks for as well.
Psalm 62:5-6 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
Your Brother in Christ, Warren Warren J. Ayer, Jr. Chairperson, Board of Deacons United Church of Colchester