Our history has two threads that run through it; the threads of patience and impatience. Threads that mark our response to waiting. We all remember when moments of patience changed everything: a job interview, a big purchase, a key conversation, a first date, or a special trip. Historical battles were won or lost over good timing, and in our own souls we know that patience is indeed a virtue that can transform us. Our relationship with waiting affects our character and often the trajectory of our lives.
Similarly, many stories in the bible centre around waiting. Often these stories become a pivot that results in a rescue, redemption, or unexpected outcome. From the story of Joseph and his technicolored coat, and his years of waiting in a jail before rescuing his family, to the people of Israel wandering for 40 years in the wilderness and finally entering the promised land, themes of patience and hope abound.
The story of Jonah is a particularly remarkable and odd story of endurance. Jonah finds himself in a forced waiting period as he spends days in the belly of a great fish. Then, even after he is spit out by the fish, he is sulking under a tree, waiting again. Every moment of waiting is not lost, it is vital and deeply transformative.
Dan Albergotti’s poem, “Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale” captures something valuable for us as we wait. I love these lines:
“Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light…Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait…”
This Covid-19 season is something none of us expected. We were forced into a season of waiting that was outside of our plans, and has certainly hampered our best hopes and dreams. Yet this long wait may be the precursor for something new in us. Pausing does not mean finishing, sometimes a break marks the start of something new in us and around us.
May you experience the hope and new perspective that waiting can bring.