For anyone who knows me, it comes as no surprise that I am a goal oriented person who doesn’t do “nothing” very well. I function best when I have a project (or in most cases, several projects) in process as well as some big long term goals. Without something to be busy with, work towards, or a list to systematically check off, I feel somewhat lost, aimless and frankly, useless. In fact, I’ve mentally characterized the times where I’m not making forward progress as frustrating wastes. Worse yet are those times when my plans get totally derailed and my life seems to be backsliding.
Goodness knows, the last few years have been full of many plans and relationships. Many progressed nicely while an equal number have not exactly turned out the way I thought they would. I find myself currently in a holding pattern in several areas of my life, just waiting and wondering how things will proceed with no clear indication of progress. In case it’s not clear yet, this condition is generally very frustrating for me.
This past weekend was Orthodox Pascha (Easter) and I’ve been thinking a lot about a sermon by our visiting priest at the liturgy on Saturday morning. In Christian tradition, Christ was crucified on Friday and arose on Sunday. That leaves an awkward downtime on Saturday to deal with, as the priest put it. His point was that many people just ignore this time because it’s a time where nothing seemed to be happening…Christ wasn’t visibly ministering, He had lost his life, He hadn’t risen. Just a weird time of nothingness and uncertainty.
For those not of the Christian tradition, I guess I could liken it in some way to planting seeds. I don’t know how many times I’ve planted seeds and wondered if they would ever grow. I check on them daily, reread the plant packaging to see the germination time, and even wonder if I should have put in full grown plants and skipped this frustrating time of nothingness. Looking at that brownish black dirt where I planted the seeds and seeing no change day after day after day is just a reminder of how much I hate it when that happens in my life. I just want life’s beautiful flowers NOW!
Returning to the priest’s sermon, his point was that those times of inactivity or even backsliding are not really a waste, but preparation for new life. In Orthodox Christian tradition, the Saturday was when Christ was in hades actively conquering death, although to His followers, he was just dead. In the gardening example, we all know that the seeds are growing underground even though we can’t see any growth for days or even weeks.
Intellectually, I already knew all this, but I’ve particularly been reflecting on how much I have, in my heart, tried to avoid the times of inactivity and lack of seeming progress. Moreso than most people, I’d rather skip over the “dead” time and get to the new life as soon as possible please. In so many ways, I am not well wired to patiently “wait and see”.
How arrogant of me to decide that just because I don’t see or perceive anything worthwhile going on that there must not be anything of value to these times. In fact, in reflection, I can see the times of personal dormancy as very valuable to my life. Like seeds growing under the ground, my mind and heart were being prepared for what would be ahead of me. Sometimes things that were not useful in the long run were stripped from me, sometimes new ideas were introduced while old ones were rooted out, and sometimes I just needed to know that I couldn’t make everything happen in the exact way that I or someone else had planned .
That last one has been the hardest and most valuable for me. Oh, how I think I know best the way that each little thing should go in my life and the lives of those I love. And oh, how wrong I can be. What I’m being reminded of is that I need to wait patiently on all things in my life to play out in the way they need to without me pushing, pulling or manipulating them. At the right time, new life will emerge. Not to say that I shouldn’t cultivate my mind, spirit and soul as I wait. Christ’s follower’s kept checking on the tomb and gardeners weed and water as they wait for their tiny sprouts to emerge. Likewise, I need to do the things that keep me healthy in all aspects of my life even as I wait to see how several things will unfold and progress. For me, this looks like church, recovery meetings, time with friends and family, being outdoors, learning new things and having daily routines.
So, that’s what I’m doing for now. And waiting. And wondering. And occasionally being frustrated. Then smiling gratefully and waiting and wondering some more while I tend to life’s garden.