Another Look: Waiting to Live?

waiting. Photo by Wallace Lan at Flickr. Creative Commons License

Another Look: Waiting to Live? (2017)

Note from CM: I went back and re-read this post from 2017 and found I could relate today. It seems like, in the midst of this pandemic, we are waiting and itching to live again. But life keeps finding a way to break through — my little grandson running around in his Spiderman costume, video-bombing our family Zoom meeting, two death visits in one night that introduced me to people and families who have fully savored life and love, learning that baseball is being played in Taiwan and rejoicing that my sister-in-law, who loves the game as much or more than I, will be getting a chance to go to a game soon, re-living the pleasure and pure awe of watching Michael Jordan play in the new ESPN documentary on the Bulls, feeling the joy in my wife as her garden got tilled and she has begun planting and tending to it again.

Life is relentless. It does not wait for us.

• • •

Most of my life, I’ve been waiting to live.

The pattern has been like this: seasons of thinking about what it means to live and waiting to live and hoping to live, interrupted by moments of living.

I’ve spent most of my days thinking about life, pondering what will enable me to live. Hoping for that break that will allow me to live. Counting on that change that will lead me to circumstances in which I can live. Afraid that if I commit myself to living now, I will miss out on the real living that might have been.

Then, every once in awhile, life breaks through.

I hear my granddaughter giggle uncontrollably. I watch her dance around in a circle with an abandon that must be the very definition of joy, and I know my place in the world: I am like Abraham, the father who laughs, and the promise is in the seed. I live in my family.

I sit in a living room with an octogenarian, while her demented husband lies drooling on the pillow in his hospital bed next to her. Though we have known each other less than an hour, she entrusts some of her deepest feelings and fears to me. I live in her tears and whispered confidences.

A line in a sermon I am preaching catches me off guard and deeply moves me. I pause. I catch my breath. I hear myself speak more softly and personally, and the people in front of me are my friends. We connect. In the word on my lips, the Word that did not originate from me but which came like an unexpected breeze, I live.

Driving down the road, I sing along with a favorite tune. It surprises me when my voice breaks and my eyes tear up. There’s some kind of life in that music, life that swells in my chest, life that carries me away. I live in the song.

The greenest groomed grass, immaculately raked soil marked with white chalk, the shape of a precious diamond, the smell of oiled leather, and smack of honed wood on cowhide. A leisurely day in the sunshine. Narrative and tradition emanating from a radio speaker. I live in the baseball game.

A simple joke with a clever twist told by a friend catches me off guard and I find myself laughing from my belly. There’s life in the laughter.

A Sunday nap, the sound of rain blessing the surface of the land, recognizing the instant that taking the picture will capture the moment perfectly — and getting it, the anticipation before the thrill, the cool breeze in my face, the easy, effective partnership I have with my colleagues, the sense of relief and awe I feel when I’ve just had a near miss — life, the moments of life, the stuff of life.

And this is my vocation — to simply live. Having found life and having actually experienced living, I find I am much less anxious to search for it, to think I must change my circumstances, do something different, pursue some new interest, gain some new insight, achieve some new status. As Merton says,

Suppose one has found completeness in his true vocation. Now everything is in unity, in order, at peace. Now work no longer interferes with prayer or prayer with work. Now contemplation now longer needs to be a special “state” that removes one from the ordinary things going on around him, for God penetrates all.

I would never claim that this describes me, or that I am anywhere near “completeness in [my] true vocation.” Heavens no!  But I would testify to a bit more contentment, a bit less anxiety; a bit more acceptance, a bit less restlessness.

A bit less thinking about how to live, and a bit more living.

What on earth have I been waiting for?

41 thoughts on “Another Look: Waiting to Live?

  1. Christiane,
    My heart goes out to you.
    May Jim rest in peace.
    Please acccept my sincere sympathy.
    Susan

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  2. Christiane, I’ve been working all day and did not see this earlier. My deepest condolences to you and yours. Thank you for being part of our community here. Know that we are praying for you and that this is a safe place to share your loss and grief. Peace.

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  3. Yep. I still remember what I was doing when the news came across that he’d been shot and killed.

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  4. Something we all pray for several times in every Divine Liturgy:

    for a Christian ending to our lives; peaceful, unashamed, and of a good report before the awe-ful judgement seat of Christ, let us ask of the Lord.

    Although I am sorry you lost your husband, thank you for the reminder that it can happen that way. It gives hope.

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  5. Give rest to the soul of thy servant, Lord, where all the saints repose, for You are good and love mankind.

    D.

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  6. Every community — those that are healthy communities — recognize that those who are celebrating are often standing beside those who are hurting, and vice versa. We who are in pain must share in the joy; those who are happy must share in the pain.

    If not….I’m not sure what you have. Dysfunction, maybe? Dishonest and “faux” fellowship?

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  7. My grandmother used to say, “Life goes on.” It was one of her regular phrases. Sometimes it could be a harsh indictment on those around you who “don’t get it”. They don’t see the pain and loss that you are experiencing and they flit about wantonly as if all is well. Sometimes it seems the whole world ought to stop and acknowledge your woe but, alas, it doesn’t. Life just relentlessly moves on. My niece just had a baby. It was brightening and hopeful to see all the pics in the middle of this worldwide misery and it was a clear reminder that life does indeed go on, ready or not.

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  8. I hear ya. Despair, uncertainty, anxiety… They waft over me at times, trying to take residence in my heart, soul and brain. The key is to not let them live there. Easier said than done, but vital.

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  9. CM, your article reminds me a bit of the book “When God Winks,” which talks about those moments that remind us that there is something larger than that moment going on. Thanks for your article today. Much enjoyed and appreciated.

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  10. I’ve been doing some devotionals lately in Colossians. In Colossians 1, Paul has something very interesting things to say about interconnectedness of faith, love and hope… with hope being the wellspring of the other two. In other words, it is the hope found in the Gospel that brings faith and love.

    Without hope, we are lost. And so we must cling to it, cling to it…

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  11. Oh, so sorry to hear the news, Christiane. You are such a vital presence here at iMonk that your loss feels a little like our loss. Prayers that God grants you some divine peace and comfort in the coming days and weeks. Deepest sympathies.
    -Rick

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  12. Christiane,
    May your husband rest in peace, and may Light perpetual shine upon him. And may God be with you and yours — comforting and supporting you — in the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

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  13. Hello senecagriggs and everyone,

    I am very peaceful. My son is here from Alaska. My husband passed this morning at a little before 6 AM.
    Thank you all so much for your prayers, I can’t tell you how much they helped me and I am grateful to each of you for your offers of prayer for my husband.

    senecagriggs, you were right . . . ‘it sneaks up on you’ . . . . he did not suffer and it was a peaceful ending

    God Bless you all.

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  14. My dear friend, as I read this post, the first thing that came to mind was the line from The Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” You and I must cling to hope.

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  15. Sometimes I struggle with the thought that the possibility of imminent calamity, the imminent possibility of death form COVID-19 in this case, makes whatever I’m doing at the moment meaningless, a waste of time that I should spend doing something else — though what else, aside from fretting, I’m never sure. I try to remember that if the possibility of death, imminent or far-off, makes whatever we do meaningless, then everything is meaningless from the get-go, and that isn’t and can’t be so. And I try to remember what Martin Luther said he would do today if he knew the world would end tomorrow, that he plant a tree. If something is worth doing, calamity up to and including death cannot undo its worth.

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  16. We are an amazing community.
    If we met on a street we would just pass by.
    How fortunate we are to have this amazing means of communication.
    If one is tall or short, fat or thin, young or old, we are just one together in this amazing community.
    We may decry technology but it has brought this unruly mob of Imokers into a space in time which is unsurpassed.
    I repeat amazing so much but we are held together by treads of trust and mutual concern and appreciation.
    In these troubled times can we not feel the support and love of us as we step as over craggy stones.
    The path was never smooth just read Job or the Psalms.
    Cherish what we have here.
    Blessings, Susan

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