Friday, April 18, 2014

Two Kinds of Waiting


“A man was being chased by a ravenous tiger.  He came to the edge of a cliff and began to climb down a hanging vine.  Then he looked down and a saw a second, equally ravenous tiger waiting at the bottom.  At that moment a mouse began to gnaw on the vine.  At that moment, something caught the man’s eye – a luscious, red strawberry growing just within his reach.  He plucked it and it and exclaimed, ‘How delicious this is!”


Right now I am the man being chased by the tigers.  There’s one behind me and there’s one ahead of me.  In addition, there’s a little mouse that’s nibbling away at all my progress.  Still, life is sweet.  I have more advantages than troubles; it’s just that troubles seem to clamor for attention more.
The nature of my troubles doesn’t really matter.  What’s fascinating is that in the last two weeks I’ve had five large personal losses in the last two weeks.  They have come with such force and rapidity, it is almost amusing.   Almost.  The last two weeks has been like one long bad day where everything seems to go wrong all on the same day.  At some point, one has to just stop and ask what’s happening.  I have felt singled out for special troubles.  The attacks are so obvious that they reek of desperation.  That doesn’t make them any less frustrating or potent, but it does make me realize there is a greater Power on my side.
There is something else that is on my side – time.  I am fortunate because in two days, two weeks, two months or two years, the problems I’m having now will be gone.   They may be replaced by new problems, but these specific problems will be gone sooner or later.  The new problems will also eventually go away.
Yes, life is a series of problems, but it’s also a series of lessons and victories. The trick is to learn the lesson and to attain the victory.  But there’s another trick as well.  That trick is to make the best use of my time as I’m waiting for this storm to pass over me. 
When I was a boy I lived in Illinois and Maryland.  We would sometimes have tornado or hurricane warnings.  To stay safe, we would sit in the hallway or in the basement waiting for the storm to pass.  It was fun and novel as a kid, but I imagine my parents were pretty scared.  The kids could play games or read books, but there wasn’t much else to do but wait until the storm passed.   One could not fight a storm.  That’s what I need to do now.  I need to wait until the storm passes.  But there are two kinds of waiting I can do – passive and active. 
To wait passively, I simply need to literally wait until the time passes.  I wait for things to change, as they inevitably do.   Sadness, loss, money troubles – eventually all of these pass one way or another.  They pass simply because of the passage of time.  Problems come and problems go, but they rarely stay.  I don’t need to fight the storm.  I just find some shelter and wait for it to pass.
Shelter takes a different form than a hallway or a basement.  Now it takes the form of prayer and trust and gratitude.  It also takes the form of experience.  I wait.  This will pass.  It won’t kill me, and if it does, then none of these troubles will matter anyway.  So I wait for them to go.
Waiting, however, must also be active.  I need to make good use of the time that I want to see pass.  There are several ways I can be actively waiting:
·   I can look for ways to directly solve my problems.
·   I can ask for prayer.
·   I can ask for help.
·   I can devise strategies to prevent myself from ever going through this again.
·   I can write out the problem and devise solutions.
·   I can study.
·   I can read.
·   I can keep moving towards my Purpose, towards my house on the beach.

There are probably more, but the point is that I can rest and I can fight.  I can acknowledge that I have troubles and be at peace, even in the midst of those troubles.  At the same time I can fight with all my might.  Being passive and being active at the same time is complementary and not contradictory.  Either way I still remember to Get Started and to Keep Going…and to give it time.