by Shandra Newcom
“Trust in the slow work of God.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
When I was pregnant with my son, 15 years ago, I found myself in a place of waiting. I was waiting for him to grow and waiting for him to be born. It took all I had to discover the patience within that allowed me to wait with anticipation and promise.
I like things to happen quickly. I’m a fast reader, thinker, and mover. But being pregnant brought with it a slowing down that really forced me to wait for the time to be right. I learned that I could live into a place of patience and soon enough, my child was born. And, of course, he was worth the wait.
I think I’ve learned to move quickly, from a culture that teaches us that individualism and self-concern are primary. If I move fast I don’t have to pay attention to people around me who may be suffering, who may be in pain. I can walk or drive by folks on street corners, look away when I pass someone in tears, not engage when someone wants to tell their story in a way that asks me to stop and listen. I can live in my own little world, safely insulated from the cares and concerns of others who may need something from me. And safely insulated from the relationships they offer when I realize that I need something from them too. There’s a back and forth, a give and take that I miss when I breeze through life. The way to experience deep and abiding love in relationship is through time and commitment to community.
The culture in which I live tries to keep me from this deep well of engagement. I feel the need to have an encounter with the Divine but I’m taught to look for that feeling of peace in the stuff I buy or the things I think I need. But what I don’t need is more stuff, more things, more ways to ignore the real lives of those around me, more ways to ignore myself. I can surround myself, insulate myself, with stuff and I will still be lonely, still desire communion with God, still feel empty.
God comes in the quiet times, the times when things do not have a hold on you. God comes in the waiting moments, the times when you pause and pray. God comes in the patient listenings, the times you open to peace and hear with your whole heart.
And this is not a quick fix for the problems you carry within you. This is not a sudden departure from concern or pain. This is a window into peace that brings patience and hope. This is a waiting for a birth that promises to be transforming.
We can’t jump there from here. We can’t skip over the journey. We can’t buy our way into the story. Our stuff won’t get us there quicker. In fact, the opposite is true. We must wait and walk together. We must stop and listen to each other. We must be counter-cultural and ask more questions than we give answers. We must give away the stuff that surrounds our heart and keeps us from feeling deeply, no matter if that stuff is what we bought at the store or gathered from our past or built on our own.
The slow work of God is leading us to new life. In patience we find promise. Our birthing pangs point us to possibility. Let us wait and slow down so that we will not miss anything. Let us join together to live this process in community so that all will be welcomed. Let us be together on the journey, stripped bare of the trappings of the season and filled with the heart of Christ.
Spiritual Practice: Approach prayer with the intention of patiently listening. Allow yourself to simply be present to God in the silence.