The Interim of Waiting

Years ago one of my nieces asked what patience was. I gave her a definition that has stuck with me to this day. “Patience means waiting without tapping your foot.” I’ve always been good at tapping my foot, drumming a rhythm, doing that familiar potty jig common to most toddlers learning the restraint of toilet training. Yes, I am good at not waiting, very good.

Most of us are familiar with goal-setting. We plot out our course and see the scope of our journey ahead from point A to Z, forgetting about all those other stepping stones, the 24 lovely letters that benchmark each turn along the way to our success. We think in terms of linear planning that looks much like this:

But as we trudge along, we soon discover that life is more like this:

Right now, I would say this is right about where I am in this leg of the journey:

I didn’t realize myself, however, how very, very sure I was that my plans would most definitely not be thwarted because they were, well, good plans, until the plan went haywire. My circumstances changed; the landscape changed; and there I was in the middle of what felt like someone else’s life, divorced at age 37 only to find myself by nearly 39 now with two kids, a cat, a dog, and . . . a boyfriend? Hold on. That was not the plan. Occasionally I would walk down the hall at work, having returned to the same place of employment I’d been before staying home with my children for 4 years, and wonder if it was 2005 again. I’d lament to myself that this was the NOT the plan.

 I once heard someone say that if you want to make God laugh, make a plan. While I don’t think God’s got that sick a sense of humor, I understand the sentiment. Life rarely, if ever, goes according to plan. And during those times, God whispers a divine reminder, “For I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:1.
Lately, I’ve been feeling pressed somewhere between what was and what hasn’t happened yet. I’m antsy for concrete plans and certainty. I know what isn’t anymore, but I don’t know all of what is. One minute I have one idea, and ten minutes later, I’ve changed my mind. Yet, I keep coming up short on resolve to pull off any of my grand ideas because I am tired. Bone tired.
Thankfully, I have a few people in my life who speak hope into those moments and the graciousness of God to give me some reprieve from myself. As the luster faded from one of my plan-making tangents last week, I realized that I need to accept that I am not in a concrete phase of my healing journey. I’m not where I was or where I am going. I am in the interim between the past and my future, where there is nothing to do but keep hoping and dreaming and letting my mind run wild with imagination. Instead of tapping my foot while I wait for the details to emerge, I need to let myself dream without pressure to discern what is next, not yet anyway.
Living in the metropolitan D.C. area does not lend itself well to waiting, and not waiting alone, but waiting without a plan. At least waiting can be bearable when you can say what you’re heading towards. Right now, though, I don’t have that luxury. I just know that God was with me where I was and is already there on the other side, wherever it is that I’m going. So with that in mind, I’m going to fill in the space with my wildest dreams and rest in the interim of waiting.

  * * * *

 Interim Time, by John O’ Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us

When near the end of day, life has drained

Out of light, and it is too soon

For the mind of night to have darkened things,

No place looks like itself, loss of outline

Makes everything look strangely in-between,

Unsure of what has been, or what might come.

In this wan light, even trees seem groundless.

In a while it will be night, but nothing

Here seems to believe the relief of darkness.

You are in this time of the interim

Where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out;

The way forward is still concealed from you.

“The old is not old enough to have died away;

The new is still too young to be born.”

You cannot lay claim to anything;

In this place of dusk,

Your eyes are blurred;

And there is no mirror.

Everyone else has lost sight of your heart

And you can see nowhere to put your trust;

You know you have to make your own way through.

As far as you can, hold your confidence.

Do not allow confusion to squander

This call which is loosening

Your roots in false ground,

That you might come free

From all you have outgrown.

What is being transfigured here in your mind,

And it is difficult and slow to become new.

The more faithfully you can endure here,

The more refined your heart will become

For your arrival in the new dawn.

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