DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

…And Now We Wait

Written by: on November 5, 2020

Not surprisingly, the US Presidential election results were not immediately known in the hours immediately following the polls closing on Tuesday, November 3. With much higher numbers of absentee and mail-in ballots to count this year due to Covid-19, election officials in several states signaled that it would likely take several days to get an accurate result.

News outlets attempted to fill their usual “Election Night” programming with reports, prognostications, and county-by-county breakdowns in some battleground states. However, no one (well, except for one of the candidates,) was comfortable declaring a winner before most viewers signed off for the night.

The following days have brought a flurry of statements, news reports (with varying degrees of veracity,) and legal maneuvers, but no official announcement as of this posting. Like many others, I expect demands for recounts and other challenges in court, potentially delaying the final result for several weeks. While the circumstances are quite different, much of the feeling is similar to that of the 2000 contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

Tom Petty once wrote, “the waiting is the hardest part.”[1] There is no denying that waiting is one of the most challenging activities of our existence. In “Not Doing,” D’Sousa and Renner recall the old joke about Hell as a waiting room. They write, “We put too much emphasis on activity, getting things done and being in control; do everything we can to evade experiences of passivity and waiting.”[2]

Certainly some are better at waiting than others. Some must fill the time doing something, or at least giving the appearance of doing something. To be seen sitting and waiting would mean that things are beyond one’s control. Of course, many things are beyond one’s control, but if a person’s image and identity is built around, “I alone can fix this,” the worst thing one could do would be nothing.

Others seem to possess more patience, a greater understanding of the process, or the inner peace simply to accept the things that cannot be controlled. This is not idle or passive, but a choice to focus one’s energy in a positive direction, even while living in the tension of uncertainty.

Most US Americans still have much to learn about the blessings of waiting. Even Christians who may love to recite comforting passages from the Scriptures often struggle when life requires the words to be put into practice.

“My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning.” -Psalm 130:6

“Those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength…” -Isaiah 40:31

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” -Ecclesiastes 3:1

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.” –Matthew 6:25[3]

Other cultures wait better than we do, even celebrating it as an opportunity to learn and grow.[4] Just as nature reveals her wonders in time, so can time present us with the chance to be reshaped, to find the quiet center of our souls.

As the tension mounts around who will occupy the White House for the next four years, I seek to model a faithful and hopeful presence in this moment of waiting. And I choose not to allow the anxiety that sometimes accompanies idleness turn into destructive activity. I will seek to live by the words of the hymn:

Come and find the quiet center in the crowded life we lead,
find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed:
Clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes that we can see
all the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be.[5]

[1] Tom Petty, “The Waiting,” released April 20, 1981 on Hard Promises, Backstreet Music, 1981.

[2] Steven D’Souza and Diana Renner, “Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action,” (New York: LID Publishing, 2018,) 150.

[3] All Scripture references are NRSV.

[4] D’Souza and Renner, 152.

[5] Shirley Erena Murray, “Come and Find the Quiet Center,” in The Faith We Sing, Hoyt Hickman, General Editor, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000,) 2128.

About the Author

mm

John McLarty

Husband. Dad. Pastor. Play a little golf.

8 responses to “…And Now We Wait”

  1. mm Darcy Hansen says:

    I so appreciate your thought here: “Just as nature reveals her wonders in time, so can time present us with the chance to be reshaped, to find the quiet center of our souls.” That quiet center. It is difficult to find when external storms are present or when the wait is on. How do we lead people into that quiet center before the storms or seasons of wait hit? And arguably, often it is during those seasons when that center is discovered, but I still think it’s discovery takes some intention and companionship. What kind of language/practices would a contemplative or well differentiated leader running for president use to communicate and facilitate the discovery of our collective quiet center during times of disorientation?

    Also, thank you for the hymn reference. It isn’t one I was familiar with. Such beautiful words; water for my thirsty soul.

    • mm Jer Swigart says:

      Darcy,

      I wonder if Biden did offer those words in his repetition of “Patience. Let’s be patient.” While I do wonder if his tone would have been different had the numbers been trending out of his favor, I do think that the idea of “Patience” is one that is embodied by the well-differentiated leader.

      • mm Darcy Hansen says:

        Agreed. I so appreciated his message, too. But I think I’m looking for words from leaders that draw people into discovering that deeper place of quiet that John is referencing. Patience is definitely a starting place, but Americans aren’t typically good at being patient. Is it possible to move a nation to a more non-anxious presence? I wonder what it would take to do that?

  2. mm Greg Reich says:

    John,
    Your statement: “Other cultures wait better than we do, even celebrating it as an opportunity to learn and grow.” makes me wonder just how deep we have bought into the McDonalds slogan, “Have it your way.” We live in an instant society. Everything from instant oatmeal to instant real time news. How do you deal with this mindset within the church to make people realize that maturity takes time and effort? How can we get people out of the microwave mentality back into a crockpot mode of spirituality?

  3. mm Dylan Branson says:

    I was thinking about our culture of busyness and how even in our waiting, we have a mentality of, “Hurry up and wait!” Here in Hong Kong where everything is go go go, finding the moments of quiet are difficult. There’s always something calling for your attention, always someone who wants to do this or that, but there’s also only so much time and energy in a day. Because of this, it’s important to actively carve out a time and place to simply be still – something that comes and goes in seasons in my own life. Even then, I find myself falling into a, “Okay, I have this much time to be still, then I need to hurry up and…” …which kind of defeats the point.

    How have you encouraged your congregation to add in stillness to the rhythms of their lives? What are some of the ways you’ve set that time up for yourself and keep yourself accountable to them?

  4. mm Jer Swigart says:

    People’s experience of urgency often seems to be an enemy of waiting. Less a strategy, perhaps the embodiment of patience and a commitment to collective discernment are important. I’m especially considering the focus of your doctoral journey in this regard. The urgency felt by the city at times calls for an immediate response. And at other times, calls for a more calculated approach…a waiting. How do see these ideas impacting your approach to healing the church become more of a player in the city as a restorative response to what is happening in our places?

  5. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Thanks John, appreciate your thoughts on this time, as I am one observing outside the borders of the US.

    I’m from out there, beyond the ‘Finisterre’ of the US. And, to be honest, I’m very thankful for that.

    And, I’m praying for those within its borders. There is a great big world out there watching and praying for those within the USA. A world, out there waiting, along with you. A world, that is not within the borders of the USA.

    Do you ever wonder what it might be like as one ‘out there’ observing what is going on there, on the stage of the US?

    I only say ‘stage’ because it’s everywhere in lights. That being said, for peace and calm (non-anxiety) in this time, wise to keep away from any bright-lighted screens!

    God bless you and all those waiting, hoping for peace, in this time.

  6. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    I think the leaders of tomorrow will have counter-cultural skills, emotional intelligence, and the ability to do the right things well, over time, and wait.

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