One of my favorite summer activities as a youngster was setting up for our church festival. We lived down the street from our Catholic church – Our Lady of Lourdes — and got paid to do the grunt work.
The pastor was a kind man known as Father John. He’d directed many festivals and knew the process. He was wise about many things, including the importance of patience.
He was always slowing down us youngsters.
For instance, we wanted to drag the tables and chairs out of the creepy, cobweb-filled church basement and set them up in the food court as fast possible, checking that nasty job off our to-do list. Father John knew better.
He’d tell us: “Wait a while.”
As we toted the dirty tables from the church basement, he’d have us unfold them and set them on their sides. He’d get a hose and spray them clean, reminding us that nobody wants to sit at a dirty table.
He’d also spray us a time or two, which was part of the fun on a hot June afternoon.
Only when the tables and chairs were clean and dry were they ready to be moved to their proper place. Father John was right about this, of course. He knew that in our rush to move onto the next thing, we’d be creating problems down the line.
Just slow down. Do what needs to be done now, and do it well – even if you end up wet and dirty in the process.
Wait a while.
No fast-forward button
That three-word expression has stuck in my head all these years. It’s taught me not only about setting up chairs and tables for an event, but also about getting through many difficult challenges in life.
Sometimes, you just have to wait a while.
I’ve had so many times when I wished I could hit a fast-forward button. I’d think about something exciting that’s just over the horizon – summer vacation, graduation, a new job, a fun trip, starting a family – and I’d spend a lot of time daydreaming about it and looking forward to it.
And in the process of fixating on days to come, I’d miss all the good stuff in the current one.
I think that fast-forward feeling is particularly true for all of us in the tough times. We lose a parent or a spouse or a child, and we wish the pain would go away instead of scraping our insides day after day. We lose a job or a relationship or a role, and we want to move onto the next thing right away.
Something happens that bruises our self-confidence or our self-worth, and we wish the wound would heal overnight.
Grieving and healing work in their own time, in their own way, for each of us. It’s no fun being in those moments, but the only way to grow through them is to accept them while without slipping into despair.
Yes, this moment really sucks. But it’s not the end. Be a little patient.
Wait a while.
Many faith communities recently observed a wait-a-while day, the one between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It recalls the day after a group of followers saw their leader publicly humiliated and executed as an insurgent.
Their response? They ran and hid behind locked doors. They felt totally crushed. Their lives had just crashed and burned — or so it seemed. All their aspirations of transforming the world with their message of love-one-another felt so foolish.
It’s time to get real, give up and move on. Go back to fishing or doing whatever.
But wait a while. The story isn’t finished. You’ll see, soon enough.
The story isn’t finished
None of our stories is ever finished. The author of life never gives up on life, or on the love that infuses all of it and each of us. We go through many times when it feels as though we’ve been crushed. All our hopes and aspirations seem buried, and a big old stone has been rolled in front of the tomb.
We need to hold fast a little longer, and to listen as we do. We’ll hear the sound of the immovable stone somehow getting rolled away. Soon, the morning sunlight is peeking into the cold, dead space inside of us, infusing us with life again.
It takes time. It never happens in an instant or an hour or a day. There’s no fast-forward button to healing and growth – and it’s probably best. If there was, we’d wind up zooming past life itself.
So, hold on. Wait a while. Your story isn’t finished.
In many ways, it’s starting all over again.