The Rev. Scott Murray
Current Western culture, and lately increasingly the East as well, is founded and functions economically on capitalism. And one of the main watch words of capitalism is time management. Watch your time. Don't waste it. Not enough time in the day. 24/7. A look on any best selling book list will almost always have a book or two on how to improve the way you can use time. If you can be more productive, you will be more successful. Prioritize. Redirect. Eat that frog first thing in the morning (look that one up!). We run to make the trains. Even though there will be another along shortly, we can't wait.
We get upset when we are made to wait. In our current culture, waiting is bad because it is, according to our capitalist background, not useful. Down time is the enemy. So we rush about like whirlwinds. We make jobs for ourselves and for others because being busy is better than being idle. Think of that phrase 'being idle'. We don't give that good marks, do we?
Even our vacations, those blocks of time we set aside for refreshment and relaxation, often roll out at a breathtaking pace, always busy, seeing everything and doing as much as we can fit into our "free" time.
Julie shared an Advent meditation a few weeks back which drew my attention back to this subject. I've been spending much time the past year or so dancing around the idea of "slow life", which also seems to be touching a nerve not only in Japan but the rest of the world as well.
From Torey Lightcap's reflection:
"Before he retired, one of my seminary professors, Bill Adams, had a habit of just sitting around on many of the benches scattered about the school. He pointedly did nothing. People would walk up to him and ask him what he was doing. "Nothing," he would say. "Can I try?" they would ask, and they would sit for a few moments before being overtaken by the anxious enormity of whatever task next lay before them. The majority of supposedly contemplative clergy-in-training could stop long enough to just luxuriate in the power of doing nothing."
And this brings us back not only to Advent and its waiting, but more importantly, to Mary and her waiting. Waiting is not doing nothing. Waiting is an activity legitimate within itself. Incorporated in waiting is the acceptance of life as it is happening around us, right now. It is not denying the real situation we find ourselves in each moment. True waiting is not impatience. It may be helpful to thinking of the word "waiting" without any object completing it. That is, consider, "I am waiting," compared with "I am waiting for the bus". The latter can lead to impatience and frustration. But Mary tells of the former. "Let it be to me as you say." I am waiting, without an expected outcome. Waiting and trusting. Waiting without an object leads to trust.
It's okay to be doing nothing. It's okay to be waiting. Both can lead us to a great spiritual depth. Be still and know that I am God.