Tuesday, February 4, 2020

A Prayer: Waiting

Lord of Time and Mercy:

 As usual, I am starting the conversation, instead of centering or patiently waiting.  It’s not that I don’t value silence or trust you to initiate a dialogue, it’s more a problem of “wait time.” How long is long enough? And what is supposed to be happening while waiting?

In education, “wait time” is the time between the teacher’s question and the first student’s answer. Theoretically, the more tolerance you have for wait time, the better your teaching.  Most teachers break down and answer their own questions after just a few awkward moments of silence. This reminds me of my comparable inability to wait in prayer. I usually short-circuited, while you waited.

I was not very good at extending the wait time as a high school teacher, but I was much better with the students I knew could answer the question than the ones I thought could not. I had confidence the wait would be rewarded. I am not so confident as I wait for you.

As a college teacher, I learned to lengthen my wait time, because I was supposed to be modeling good teaching for prospective secondary teachers. I discovered that their discomfort was far greater than mine as wait time lengthened, so I could depend on somebody finally taking a stab at the question. Besides, I realized that my willingness to wait was more important than the forthcoming response. New teachers needed a good model of waiting, more than any information about teaching we might stumble upon. Ironically, I was their model.

This is where you remind me how impatient I am, and that all my past accommodations to “wait time” prove nothing about my willingness to wait. I am still waiting for the payoff, the reward for waiting. That’s my bottom line, Lord. You have the patience of the Creator and Sustainer of life, and I have the patience of an early adolescent.

Just recently, it was suggested that if I am waiting, I’m not living in the moment. Rather I am living in suspense, waiting for an expected revelation, because who ever waited for nothing?  No one in my church, I might be bold to say.

Yet apparently, a host of medieval mystics have mastered waiting for nothing, not to mention many of my Quaker friends who attend un-programmed or semi- programmed meetings. They are all very keen on waiting for nothing.  They think the answer to impatience is learning patience.  In fact, Father Richard Rohr is pretty sure our rather contentious society would be improved by patient silence.

If we can see silence as the ground of all words and the birth of all words, then when we speak, our words will be calmer and well-chosen.  Our thoughts will be non-judgmental. Our actions will have greater integrity and impact. 
(Center for Action and Contemplation, January 9, 2013)

But since you are the Lord of time and mercy, I would like to address your merciful side for a moment. You’ve always been willing to work with me in the past, and maybe, in your mercy, you will shorten my wait time. Or maybe you will teach me how to wait for nothing. Or maybe you will show me why it is not for nothing, but maybe for some of those benefits Father Rohr mentioned. Or maybe you have a lesson that I can hardly imagine in my results-oriented mind. I’m not trying to tell you how to wait.

So I’m waiting, Lord, but not for results. Just for a bit of courage and that strengthening of the heart, you mentioned (Psalms 27:14).

Did I mention I’m waiting?

Bill Tucker

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