The Journey: Spiritual waiting

Posted by Rev. Daniel Christian on

                      I recently finished reading a memoir by actress Carrie Fisher. Most of you know her as Princess Leia from the movie “Star Wars.” In her memoir she warmly and humorously talks about her addiction to alcohol and drugs, struggles with bipolar, growing up in Beverly Hills and being raised by celebrity parents Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. For those of you who don’t know or can’t quite place these names and faces, think Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie of the 1950’s. Her famous parents were known by the body of their work but also for celebrity scandal.

In order for her to talk about celebrity life, mental illness and addiction she needed a good title, so she settled on “Wishful Drinking.” She writes, “When a person is manic-depressive and addicted to alcohol and pills, the ability to wait and be patient are not prominent personality features.” She goes on to write, “Instant gratification takes too long.”

She is on to something here. I am not saying we are all manic depressives and alcoholics, but waiting doesn’t always come so easy. Especially when we face big life changes that have the ability to knock us down and derail our perfect plans.

Spiritual waiting and biblical waiting are much different than cultural waiting we associate with a coffee line or a red light. I can barely make it through a coffee shop without screaming when everyone in front of me is ordering a latte with some special taste preference. I try to breathe deeply and not judge those in front of me, but alas, waiting is difficult.

Spiritual waiting is intentional, prayerful and mindful. If we can allow ourselves just a little time to set aside our phones and instead choose to be still and quiet, we give ourselves a chance to hear the whispers of the Spirit of God.

A friend of mine had planned her first silent meditation retreat. It was three full days of silence. She was excited and looked forward to getting recharged. As she counted down the days, her excitement grew into anxiety. By the time the day arrived, what began as “getting recharged” had turned into, “I am afraid the silence might make me crazy.” She worked herself up into a frenzy.

We live in a loud world. If we want to take time for silence, we have to make it. If you don’t make it for yourself, nobody else will.

So much of our lives are about “going,” “doing” and “accomplishing”. In the biblical book of Acts Jesus tells the disciples that the “waiting” he is talking about is active prayerful, not idle hand ringing and pacing back and forth. Go, wait, pray, and the Spirit of God will lead you where you need to be.

We live in anxious times and how we wait through it all matters. The daily tweet on North Korea, culture differences and conversations have now turned into online wars! Our world is changing rapidly. How we lived our lives 15 years ago is dramatically different.

Many people are experiencing the need to wait. Employment, fertility treatments, adoption, waiting for a wound to heal, waiting for a cure, waiting for a grown child to finally mature into adulthood. This type of waiting can be turned into a form of spiritual waiting. You are not an island. You are not alone. Ask yourself, “How is God calling you” during this time of personal, albeit anxious or maybe hopeful waiting.

Before we can do or give anything we first need to have been a receiver. If you haven’t received love, it is difficult to give love or even know what it is and looks like. You can’t give forgiveness unless you know the power of being forgiven. You can’t give grace until you have first received it. It is pretty simple, you can’t give to others what you don’t have. Grace, love, mercy, compassion and wisdom need to be received before one can ever go forward and give to others. I hope all of you experience a moment of peace this week.

Rev. Daniel Christian is the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ukiah.