Not yet. Pretty soon. Almost there. You just have to wait a little bit longer. Sooner rather than later. Be patient.
We have all kinds of time stamps in our conversations. We are people bound by time and space and the time factor weighs heavily in how we live from day to day. It seems as if timing is emphasized even more in these days before Christmas. Advent has its own sense of time that is always ‘not yet, but soon.’
And so we wait. We live in-between this present moment and the moment of fulfillment that we expect to come. Children wait for Christmas morning with a sense of eager anticipation that is rarely rivaled. Families wait for the return of loved ones who are living in other states. A mom lives with bated breath for a son or daughter who is away serving in harm’s way. All around us people are eager and excited with the prospect of a moment that has not yet arrived, but that has been previewed over and over again in our imaginations.
And so we wait. I am longing for a conversation with someone and am living in the ‘sooner rather than later’ stage. Yes, people are busy and it’s not always convenient to converse. Life is hectic this time of year, and that is especially true of someone like me who lives and works in a church setting. ‘Sooner’ could have happened long before now and it would have felt like it was still ‘later’ to me. ‘Sooner’ and ‘later’ are relative terms that mean radically different things depending on one’s perspective. Gosh, I wish ‘sooner’ had already gotten here. How ‘soon’ is ‘sooner’ really? How long does it take before everyone would recognize it as ‘later’? This is a place where time really is flexible and the interpretation is not rigid.
And so we wait. Recently we had anticipated a needed change in life—it was going to be major on all kinds of fronts. But there were many moving parts that had to fit together personally and professionally. Day after day was an exercise is ‘soon, but not yet.’ The process was stressful and demanding. Every day was an experience of living in limbo. Patience was at a premium.
But all of this reminds me that patience is part of life. I suppose I am like everyone else. I spend moments reliving events that are already in the past. Some of them were so pleasant, so full of light, so wondrous that I cannot let go of them. I reminisce about smiles and laughs and moments so filled with life that they took my breath away. I also try to preview events that are in the future. I anticipate conversations and connections that will once again give a sense of life and light and joy. I look forward to how those moments might unfold and what I may say and how I may feel. In the mean while, I have to be patient—awaiting for the unfolding of time that I can neither hinder nor rush.
My phrase for patience is ‘largeness of soul.’ It is remembering that while we are beings constrained by time and space, we are also spirits who can see and feel beyond those bounds. When I am patient I remember that there is a sense of timing that is greater than what my little ego would like to see. When I am patient I recognize that other things are taking place according to a schedule that is unknown to me. When I am patient I realize that my part has not yet come to the fore and I cannot rush my cues.
I have times when I do not want to be patient—hey, I am human after all! I have times when I want to rush right into matters and take control to try to manipulate them to my advantage. I am subject to the same sorts of wishes and wants and whims that we all have from time to time.
But others tell me that I can be incredibly patient; they see something of that largeness of soul that I often miss. That is not because everything is going smoothly on all fronts—indeed, the occasion for patience is when things are not going well! My practice of patience comes from reminding myself of the fact that God is working things out in ways that I do not see according to schedules not of my making. My practice of patience comes from remembering that others also have ideas about timing and a sense of readiness for what lies at hand. I am able to be patient because I have had so many experiences of seeing how things come to pass in a particular order that cannot be discerned when the spirit is too eager and anxious. Largeness of soul puts me in a place where I can wait more easily knowing I am part of something so much bigger than myself.