Five minutes ago I finished reading a book about some of my favorite people ever: the Inklings. These were a group of friends that gathered around C.S. Lewis in his rooms at Magdalen (pronounced "maudlin", weirdly) College in Oxford. Their purpose was to gather together to read aloud and discuss various works: some of their own, some of others. The first sketches of Lord of the Rings were presented among these men (casual screaming from yours truly). The author, Humphrey Carpenter (who is gifted at turning biography into story), makes the case that the Inklings were centered around Lewis, so much of the book involves Lewis' life. In the last few pages, Carpenter records the last days of Lewis' wife Joy. She was dying of bone cancer, and at the end of her life, Lewis said the following (Carpenter quotes from Lewis' book Letters to Malcolm):
Meanwhile you have the waiting. And while you wait, you still have to go on living...
This little sentence basically smashed into my chest and brought up a lot of thoughts for me. I'm going to try as best I can to talk about them here. I'm not entirely sure what I think about the whole idea of waiting. I've written two posts on it here, each at least six months old, and when I go back and reread them, I am at a loss as to what I meant. At any rate, my views on the waiting periods of life are in flux, and as writing helps me to process -- well, you know.
As many of you know, I'm on the Launch Team for Emily Freeman's new book Simply Tuesday. I've been slowly but steadily going through that book, too. And it's the kind of book you have to absorb slowly. Not only is it a thoughtful little book, requiring you to stare into your own soul, but it's also about slowness.
We live in a world of fast-paced production and consumption. I know this is not news to anyone. We all talk blithely about the consumerism of the twenty-first century -- I know I do, though I've yet to do anything about it in my own heart. To be a member of society is to feel the push to work hard, to produce quickly and in large amounts. We are trained to get our names out there, to move ruthlessly into the next thing. One of my favorite TV shows portrays a fictional president whose motto is "What's next?" And I feel that's the question we all ask.
What's next? What is the next thing I can do in order to achieve my goal? How can I work harder, do more, push the envelope, become better? As Emily often says, we do in order to be.
But the situation she poses to us -- to me -- in her beautiful new book is this:
What if we aren't made for fast and the fury of what's next? What if we're made to be slow?
What if, instead of resenting and resisting smallness, we embraced it and sank into it?
Seriously, what does that look like? This morning I read a chapter (wonderful, as usual) in which Emily examines our in-between phases. I can't print text, since the book isn't out yet, but the gist is as follows: We all hunger for the stage. We all want to be in the spotlight. We are all waiting for a big break -- a moment we are allowed entry at an invisible point into the fluorescent-lit world of success.
As a singer and an artist, this kind of punched me in the face. All young artists talk about the day that we "make it". It's part of the profession, I think.
Or is it?
Jesus moved slow. He didn't seek His own glory. In the chapter I read this morning, Emily points out that whenever Jesus did a miracle or healed someone, He always instructed the people to keep it on the down low. He hushed it up. He continued to live out His calling -- He never stopped preaching and healing and proclaiming the Kingdom of God -- but His motivation was not one of fame. He was content to be quiet. He was content to give His glory to His Father and simply wait.
He ministered on earth for three years before He went to fulfill His purpose here at Golgotha. He could have just gone straight to the cross, and the purpose would have been accomplished.
But He didn't. He waited.
Sometimes waiting is scary.
Being quiet is hard.
Sitting in the passageways of life -- waiting for the phone call, for the audition, for the next big thing in your life -- this kind of waiting feels like laziness and lethargy. I'm not working hard enough, we think. I'm not doing enough. I'll never be ready. If I'm not constantly getting better, I can't be the best. And so on.
I and every other singer on the planet goes through a period of time when we have a technical plateau. You want to get better, but you can't see the next step. So you're forced to wait.
What if we embraced the in-between? What if we trusted God in our waiting periods, choosing to believe that He is working even if we don't feel that we are?
Waiting doesn't make the next big thing hurry up. In the waiting, there is still living to be done, as Lewis says. In the waiting, there is still life to be lived. When we look back on our lives, how many days will we have wasted by wishing them away?
Embracing the slow, crawling waits is a difficult thing to do. When I think of that prospect, I balk. Why can't what I want come now?
Quite simply, I am not in control, and I can either embrace that fact or fight it.
The embracing brings more peace.
Let us not be afraid of small and slow and waiting. There is still living to be done. Let us live in the small, slow moments in between. Let us trust God through the technique shifts, the time before the deadline, before the phone call comes -- let us trust Him in between.