Saturday, February 25, 2012

letters from the waiting room

I have been antsy lately. Being restless isn’t all that strange for me, granted. I am a person of passion, and restlessness often follows close behind passion. But the trouble lately is I am antsy all the time. All the time. My days have become an unending stretch of edge-of-seat, hand-wringing antsiness. I feel like my heart has set up shop in a waiting room- waiting for news about my applications, waiting for word from a friend, waiting to know where we will be living next. Waiting for some change, some news, some salve for my unsettled insides.

It is understandable, then, that I have had a pretty hard time remaining present to anyone or anything lately. Last week, I found myself thinking that I would like to go to sleep and not wake up until I am on the far side of some of the things I am waiting for. The space between desire and fulfillment is one of great tension. I am exhausted from dwelling in it.

Thank God for weddings. In the weeks before my two friends recently tied the knot, with the big day rapidly approaching, last minute needs came to the fore (as they always do with weddings) and jobs were handed out. Despite the fact that the bride and groom are two dear friends of mine, I suddenly found myself annoyed with all talk of weddings, and I chafed at the thought of taking on any helping role. I didn’t know why, really. It isn’t like me. I tried to talk myself into a better mindset over and over, but oh man, I wanted to exit the whole scene and go sit alone in my waiting room.

The tension, the chafing persisted. Until the Tuesday preceding the wedding, when those of us at my church’s evening service somehow came around to discussing the notion that we—the body of Christ—belong to one another. I don’t even remember how we got there, or what the scripture was that week. All I know is that I heard it loud and clear on the inside: My community and I, we belong to one another- I to them, and they to me. I realized how self-centered I was becoming in my waiting room. How selfish it really is to want to go to sleep just to avoid the ache that can come with waiting. I realized that I belonged to people who needed me to be awake, to people who needed me to be present in the moment and not just on the far side of my restlessness. This included my soon-to-be-wed friends. And so, in a dual-purpose event, two people I love got married and I got a seismic shift on the inside. I entered fully into the occasion. It was an exhausting and beautiful weekend, both life-giving and full of unexpected joys.

I got a seismic shift, but not a salve. This is still a letter from the waiting room. Still waiting for news, waiting for word from a friend, waiting. And it still hurts. In the midst of it, though, I am finding life in the in-between. I am a little more aware of the present moment, a little more alert to those to whom I belong. Yes, thank God for weddings. And in the end, thank God for waiting rooms where, if I am paying attention, I will often find God himself keeping me company and speaking to my antsy heart.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

a new first day

I love the Exodus story. Every other year, I read through the Chronological or One Year Bible, and it is always a highlight. What an incredible story.

A few days ago, as I read through Exodus 12, I noticed something I have never spotted before:
"While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the LORD gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron: 'From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you. ...This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the LORD. This is a law for all time.'" (12:2, 14). Note that the Israelites are still in Egypt. The promise of salvation from oppression has been made, but the exodus has not yet come about. In the midst of the tension between promise and fulfillment (a tension we are often called to dwell in), God makes a command that calls for an incredible amount of faith: "Completely reorder your time, your record of history. I am about to transfigure all of life for you- what you know of me and how you relate to me. From now on, your entire calendar will be based on beginning each year with telling the story you are about to enter into."

It is a reordering of their lives indeed. Brought out of slavery under Egyptian rule, the Israelites are swept into a journey that proved far more adventurous than they ever could have expected, following a God who was far more wild than they sometimes wished. He brings them out from Egypt, then tells them to backtrack a bit; You know, "Just so I can let their army catch up and almost overtake you. For my glory." Um...ok. He leads them into a desert where they find only bitter water at first. Perfect. And he asks them to walk right into the middle of a perfectly good sea, trusting that the waters will hold back long enough for them to pass through. Sure. No biggie.

From generation to generation, God says, tell this story. If nothing else, you can say, "This, my son, is a festival to remember the day that our lives became...interesting."

My life as a disciple of Jesus is full of stories when life became adventurous and God seemed particularly wild. And I do remember them from time to time. I have a feeling that God, however, would ask of me the same thing he asked of the Israelites: "Allow me to become so central, my story so large, that it completely reorders your time, your life, your history. Remember the day I brought you out of slavery. It is the new first day of your life. Never stop telling the story."

The first day I was brought out of slavery was June 16th, 1996. I stood up to say that I wanted to follow the One who love me, and life got...interesting. I must remember that day. But I realized as I read those words from Exodus that God is bringing me out of slavery in a million other steps along the way. I often encounter them with awe, astounded, yet remember them blithely. Absentmindedly. I suddenly recall walking through a perfectly good sea as if it were dry ground, and all I can think is, "Oh yeah, I forgot about that." Again and again, I go back to the old order of things. God, however, asks me to let these moments be entire paradigm shifts. He asks me to allow them to reorder my world. "Today is the day I showed you my wonders. Tell and retell this story."

Goal for the year: Begin living my life by a different kind of calendar. The one in which all of time, all of my life, all of my history has been reordered- transfigured- by the story of God in my life. And learn to tell and retell the story.