Lessons from Waiting and Change

Recently as I was reading a manuscript at work, a sentence from the introduction practically leapt off the page at me. In Praying in the Messiness of Life,* Linda Douty writes,“We’ll explore ways to become more aware of God’s presence in life as it is rather than that mythical day when things settle down.”*

That’s what I’ve been doing, I thought—waiting for things to settle down. Maybe there’s a spiritual lesson here somewhere?

It seems I’ve been waiting a lot over the past several months. In March I was asked to consider moving from Upper Room Books, where I’d been an associate editor for nine years, to The Upper Room’s marketing department. After winding up a couple of projects, I made the move to marketing near the end of May.

Since then I’ve been “living into” my new job responsibilities. I’ve realized how much I have yet to learn about marketing and various kinds of writing—catalog copy, ads, press releases. And though I embrace the opportunity to learn new skills, I feel like someone who’s taken up residence in a foreign country—I’m learning a new language, and it’s taking a while to catch on to the different rhythm of my life.

At the same time, I’ve had to learn about waiting in my personal life. First there’s the long-term experience of waiting for my young adult children to mature (and watching them reject some of the values my husband and I have tried to instill in them) and make decisions about life directions.

A more daily experience of waiting resulted from our three-car family (with four members who needed to get to work) having to share cars for several months. At one point this summer, we were down to one car and had to rent two cars for a month.

Before this summer, I’d never thought about how much of my independence depends on being able to get in the car and GO. Some days as I was ferried to work, I didn’t know exactly how I would get home. (I can’t begin to describe how much not knowing the plan for the day rattles me.) Everything eventually worked out, but sometimes I had to ask people outside my family for rides, and this wasn’t easy for me, since I am, as my husband likes to say, “as independent as a hog on ice.”

So what lessons (spiritual and otherwise) have I learned over these months?

1. Change is constant; you can fight it, or you can accept it. As Linda Douty said, God is present in life as it is. Sometimes you have to look deeper to find God’s presence in certain circumstances, but often you will discover surprising evidence that God has been there all along.

2. It’s okay to ask people for help, even if you don’t (as we say in the South) “want to be no trouble to nobody.” Someday I hope to be able to help those kind souls who gave me rides, but if I can’t repay them, I can always help someone else.

3. Waiting gives you pockets of time for reflection. It can even be a spiritual experience. Some of my best prayer time this summer happened while I was waiting to be picked up from work. Perhaps my little exercises of waiting developed some patience in me, but that remains to be seen. 😀

*Praying in the Messiness of Life: 7 Ways to Renew Your Relationship with God by Linda Douty  (published by Upper Room Books, of course) will release in March 2011.  This honest, gentle book about how to weave prayer throughout your day is well worth the wait.