When in Doubt, Wait
The title of this inspirational piece may seem odd. When in doubt, we should wait. That does not seem like the American way. I think Americans tend to be more pushy. When in doubt, push ahead. Force things! Make things happen! You can do it! There are many ways we express the fact that we should seldom wait---for anything. We pride ourselves that we lived in a fast-paced fashion. “Get yours while the getting is good,” is a phrase I heard all my life. The implication was you had to be quick, perhaps a bit grabby, and certainly never dally. Slow people are losing people.
There may be times the above-mentioned perspective serves us well as people and as a nation. But spiritually speaking, that is usually not a good way to go. However, I believe that we often carry our lives-as-normal into our spiritual lives. That should not be surprising. Why would we expect ourselves to be one way “in the real world” and a different way in our “spiritual lives?” As I think about this, I realize this is one place where I feel my own Quaker tradition offers some sage advice.
As a Quaker---as a Christian---I seek to follow God’s desire for me. The more common term is “God’s will.” I can live with that terminology, but for whatever reason I prefer the language of “God’s desire.” Perhaps it is because the idea of “will” too often carries the connotation of control. Some of us grow up in families where our parents’ “will” was quite demanding. As long as we did what they wanted, life was ok. Going against their will was sure to elicit elements of control. We might be coerced to do their will. Frequently the element of freedom was non-existent.
Personally, that is why it is tricky to use personal, parental imagery to describe God. I understand that God can be like a Father---or like a Mother, for that matter. But God is not my Father. And God might not even be like my father. I prefer to let God simply be God. Secondly, I believe the reason for creation and the reason for my own personal creation is love. God created because God loves. In a sense God loved me and loved you into being. We exist because of love and we live for love.
Love is the language of desire. God did not only lovingly bring me into existence. God continues to love me in my existing. And God’s loving desire continues to lure me into deeper, fuller life. That is what it means to follow God’s desire. To follow God’s desire is to opt for love. That is why I want very much to go with God’s desire. It is an option for love.
It really is that simple for me. The problem is when God’s desire is not clear. When I am not sure what God’s desire is for me or when I am not sure what the desire is, then the question is: what do I do? It seems to me that there are two options. When I am not sure what God’s desire is, I can go with my best guess. I make a good guess about that Divine desire and go for it. I am sure I have done this too many times. However noble it might seem (at least I did my best is the argument), it nevertheless smacks of self-will. In effect, I could not discern God’s desire, so I took it into my own hands, made a good guess and went with it.
The second option picks up the title of this reflection. If I am not clear about God’s desire for me, I wait. I keep perspective. I know that my commitment is to do God’s desire, not simply to be doing something. The argument suggests that if I do not know God’s desire for me, doing nothing is better than doing something. Waiting is not bad in this scenario. In fact, waiting seems like the only prudent thing to do. The logic here asks, why would I do something if I am not sure what to do? I take self-will out of the equation.
Waiting does not mean unwilling to do anything. Waiting means that I wait until I am clear. My commitment is to do God’s desire---not simply to do. Waiting provides me more time for prayer, for meditation, for whatever I can do to become clear about the Divine desire. Waiting is different from inactivity or doing nothing. I prefer the language of active waiting---expectant waiting, if you will.
Active waiting is expectant. It is a seeking, probing kind of waiting. Waiting is a posture that has me ready to act when I become clear about God’s desire. Paradoxically, there is an urgency in active waiting, as well as a comfortable patience. Active waiting is grounded in a trust that God’s desire will become known to me. There is no despair in active waiting.
I can relax with all of this. If I keep it in context, I realize the context is my relationship with the Holy One and my willingness to act within that context. If I am in doubt about the action, I rest in the fact that the relationship is still present. I am still in that relationship, even if I don’t know what to do in the moment. That’s ok. When in doubt, wait. The action will come.