Waiting in the wilderness

November Gray

Yet again, I find myself in a season of waiting.

This season of stasis, of living on pause, irritates me. It feels like an exile to the wilderness — dry and barren. Perhaps Lent is the appropriate church season for the sensation.

I waffle between sadness, anger and flashes of envy. And then, horrified by the not-so-nice feelings, silence and police them into submission (or so I naively like to think). I gave in finally and let the feelings express themselves in my journal. Perhaps now they can stop with the sneak attacks.

I want to whine, to rush things forward, to move beyond the space of discomfort.

Life feels like the March mud season outside. The world is brown, but I know crocus, tulips and lilacs are on the horizon. Green will sprout. But, I don’t know when, and I can’t rush it along. It’ll come, and as with every year, will surprise me with its timing and splendor.

It sounds nice enough to know spring will come as it always does, but the waiting is sandpaper rubbing on my heart and soul. Mildly abrasive and increasingly painful. Maybe it serves a useful purpose, but it still hurts. Will my heart be bleeding or soft and smooth when the wait is over? Time will tell, I suppose.

If you’re in the wilderness, stuck in the place between, you’re not alone.

The space between here and there is a difficult space to dwell. I’m no longer the person I was, and I’m definitely not in the place I’d like to go. There’s no going back, and I have little control over moving forward. We wait for the phone to ring. I hate this sense of powerlessness; it feels like weakness, and my weakness irks me.

When I wrote on this subject a year ago, I started to realize life is lived on the way from here to there. What I hadn’t fully grasped (and am still coming to grips with) was the fact that life is waiting — whether it’s in hope of some good thing or in expectation of something painful.

We spend so little time in the moments of arrival. This week I remembered that even after the phone rings I’ll start another kind of waiting. One train lands in the station, while another departs. I just trade out the event that I await.

The bulk of life is the space between — wilderness.

I can learn to make the most of the time waiting — or I can make myself bananas over not yet being in the place I want to be.  As I consciously think about it, I’d rather land in the former; as a matter of course, I want to lean into choices that open me to wonder and curiosity over bitterness. Even if it’s just for a moment, I want to be open to the possibility of joy springing up like a dandelion sprouting through concrete.

In this season, choosing life in the waiting means renewed dedication to reading, writing and creating. I’ve started scrapbooking again as a way of organizing our story of our first tiny. And I’ve picked up my crochet hooks again, working ahead on blankets for future littles as well as a project just for me. The busyness of my hands helps tame the churning of anxious thoughts. Plus, there’s a tiny thrill of accomplishment when I learn a new stitch and when I finish something I started.

Reading helps too; in the past few weeks I’ve had a chance to catch up on my book list. Highlights include Kathy Khang’s Raise Your Voice, Jonathan Merritt’s Learning to Speak God from Scratch, Rachel Held Evans’ Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water and Learning to Love the Bible Again, Nadia Bolz Weber’s Shameless: A Sexual Reformation, and Anne Lamott’s Almost Everything: Notes on Hope.

And all that reading fuels my passion for writing and checking in with my own story. I remembered my love of words, and how writing, for me, is a way of healing. I unearthed my sense of calling to write in public way, not just in the privacy of my journal.

I made a quick decision to write each week in Lent as I wrote that first post of things I didn’t know before fostering. It felt like something I needed.

And it was. But, I thought it’d be easy, not something that stretches my guts open and inside out each week. There’s fear with public writing and putting my story out there. Impostor syndrome sets in with a vengeance. Who am I to do this thing?

But in showing up despite the fear, I get a chance to grow into myself as a writer and to reclaim my voice.

Perhaps the newfound openness of time that burns is also opportunity.

And I’m going to frame it that way for my sanity. I get to choose the meaning for my story. Rather than squandering the time and seeing it as meaningless, what if it’s a chance for my growth?

I can hold the sadness and frustration of wanting to be a mom at the same time I say there’s a gift in this window of time to invest in myself as a writer. It’s an opportunity to answer the “what if” questions about my life now, instead of looking back in regret.

Perhaps that is the manna I’m looking for in this season of waiting. As I’ve said recently, we can’t always get what we want, but we can make the most of what we do have. And what I have right now is time to write.

What’s the manna for you in your season of waiting? What carries you into the next day? What would making the most of what you have look like?

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