“I’m waiting for us to get there,” my four-year-old told me.
We were on the way to her second gymnastics class, the cars on the freeway breezing by us, the sky blue and adorned with soft wisps of clouds.
We’d been in the car about two minutes.
“I hear you, honey,” I told her from the front seat. “Life is a lot of waiting, isn’t it?”
I am struck by how often I sound like my daughter. Completely, utterly impatient with the process of getting there—wherever there is.
Waiting for new opportunities for fellowship, waiting for time to be more contemplative about God, waiting for more maturity.
Waiting to figure out exactly how to parent well. Waiting until one child is a little older. Waiting for this, that and the other stage to pass.
Waiting to figure out how I keep doing art on a day-to-day basis, even when no one is standing up and applauding. I’ve been waiting to find just the right audience, just the right publication, just the right approach to marketing.
I do, I try, I take steps, but at each movement forward, I’m wondering, “Is it enough? Am I enough?”
Surprise! There is no answer.
So I keep at my daily work, even while I’m waiting to get to the place where the yearning will stop.
I am starting to suspect that there is no there there.
I have been trying to do a yoga routine a few times a week. I like feeling my body get stronger and less trembly as I swoop my arms to the sides and point my body to the sky like an arrow.
I know I’m not the first one to make this observation, but I like that in yoga, the work is mostly waiting. It’s effortful waiting. I move my body into a pose and stay there, not moving, while my muscles ache with the effort.
Sometimes, I don’t like the stillness. Strengthening seems easier if I can distract myself from the pain.
Yoga is reminding me to stay still as I try. It is reminding me that progress is not necessarily forward motion. It is teaching me that being is its own work.
I have been reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Circle of Quiet this month, and have found encouragement in her recounting her long years of submitting A Wrinkle in Time for publication, only to receive rejection after rejection. Years of working at midnight while her children were asleep in bed. Years of wondering if her effort was worth it. Years of waiting for a publisher.
At one point, she gives up. She puts a cover over her typewriter, deciding that she has been foolhardy. She decides to face facts.
Then she realizes that as she’s giving up, she is mentally composing a novel about failure.
“I uncovered the typewriter,” she says. She decides: “I had to write. I had no choice in the matter. It was not up to me to say I would stop, because I could not. It didn’t matter how small and inadequate my talent…I still had to go on writing.”
I could say, “I still have to go on parenting. Being a wife. Working for justice. Living out my faith.”
We do the work with fear and trembling, in stillness. Not working to succeed, but to be faithful to our calling.
I am trying to stop asking myself, “Will I ever be good enough?”
Instead, I’m trying to ask:
How can I be faithful right now?
What is needful today?
What can I do to create beauty or show love in this moment?
How can I be obedient to my faith going forward?
I am trying to learn to work and be still. To rest and to try.
To wait, in faithfulness, for the strength to come.
What are you waiting for? How are you being strengthened, perhaps despite yourself, as you wait?
Photo courtesy Eric Ward