I find a certain comfort in the church calendar. The rhythms of the year, forward moving but ever circular. For me, Ordinary time is usually anything but and the rest of year has deep layers that need re-looking at whenever it is time, again, to live through them.
Lent comes wrapped in its own mystery. Another waiting time of year. But unlike Advent, when waiting is full of anticipation and expectation of joy and birth, Lenten waiting, for me, is steeped in sadness. I know what’s coming and it is not good. Even with the hope of Resurrection, I must live through the suffering to get there.
This Lent in particular has been all about the waiting. And perhaps the ‘God moments’ I have witnessed are the precursor to Easter morning but it has been a rough 40 days.
I have found myself waiting in a number of places and for the most part I usually don’t mind but some of my waiting has been emotional and that is never easy. My mantra these days is – ‘I am where I am supposed to be.’ This gives me a great deal of peace when I find myself in places where I am uncomfortable or where waiting is difficult.
Earlier this month I found myself waiting at the US Consulate. For whatever reason, visas always seem to be an issue here, whether they are for this country or another. And so I went to work out my situation. I sat waiting for 2 hours, until it dawned on me that perhaps something wasn’t quite right and of course it was true, I was at the right time but in the wrong place. But in the meantime, I love to people watch and it was interesting to observe the others in the room who were waiting patiently for their appointments. And my bright shiny moment came when a young Jewish man turned, saw a friend and greeted him with a warm handshake and quick hug, ‘Mohammad, Shalom.’ And they sat together and chatted as they waited for their turn. My issues are still pending but my hope is alive and well.
I had an interesting experience with a friend of mine who has friends who live in West Jerusalem. We were invited to join them for a quick dinner and the screening of a documentary. Without going into detail, the evening was quite intense, mainly because it became apparent that this couple lives in a state of fear – waiting, it seems, for the proverbial other shoe to drop. I am hearing stories now of regular drills on the train – what to do in case of a bomb; where to find your local bomb shelter and for some the constant reminder of the wall is – the enemy is at hand. I do not live in this world. I am not afraid. The question posed by that evening was – when the terrorists attack, will you be on our side? The answer is an easy one – of course. I am against terrorists. However, I think our opinions differ when it comes to who, we think, are terrorists. And so they wait in fear. And I wait in sadness and cling to the moments I come across that give me hope. (Please see above.)
Perhaps the most difficult part of Lent this year was waiting the outcome of a family member who had suddenly fallen ill. Four weeks ago he had trouble breathing and went into the hospital. Two weeks ago he died. My son sat by his bedside every day. He held his hand as he breathed his last breath. He prayed over him. And waited. He waited for miracles and he waited for peace. And in many ways both have come. Perhaps not as expected but they have come. And for me, as always blessed, I caught a flight home within hours of receiving the news that I was needed.
On the way, there was an emergency on our flight and we landed in Munich for a couple of hours. Consequently, those of us with connections missed them. And so I found myself waiting in Newark for the next available flight to Montreal. As I sat there I witnessed a lovely moment – a young girl calling home to reassure her family and friends that she was well; her first time ever on an airplane had been fine, exhilarating in fact. I caught her eye and smiled as with every phone call, her experience expanded from ‘Take off was scary at first.’ to ‘Of course, I would do it again, it was fun!’ And I thought - I am watching this person grow in front of me, her world will never be the same again. It was worth the wait just to witness the expansion of this person’s universe.
Once home, I knew I was where I was supposed to be. Family and friends abundant and supportive. Our shock at death becoming a celebration of life. Our tears healing. Searching for the meaning of life and the reminder that it is such a quick transient gift.
And so is this Lent, or is this Life? The waiting with expectation of life and death. Both equally difficult, I think. It seems to me, that everyone is waiting for something – be it the worst life has to offer or the absolute best. Either way, there is a journey to be experienced. My prayer is that we can embrace the gift we have been given and welcome all those we meet with grace and peace.
Salaam, Shalom, Peace be with you.