Waiting at Lambeth

We are not very good at waiting, especially Americans. Now, now, now. Now! The Lambeth Conference is full of waiting. Beyond the queues at meals, worship, boarding buses, and everything else, there is the whole Conference. In some sense, the hope is that God’s Spirit will speak as people hear one another and share their own insights and experiences. There are no Big Stories to report, so the media are waiting for things to report on. Lacking “substantive” news, much of it is just reported ex nihilo.

But what if we thought of the whole Lambeth Conference as a spiritual exercise. I’m sure that’s what the design group had in mind. Especially for those of us who are not bishops, there is much waiting. I recently read a fine bit of writing on the spiritual discipline of waiting. The Rev’d Melody Wilson Shobe writes:

At the heart of it, my problem with waiting is really an issue of control. I want to be in control of my life. I don’t want to let stoplights, or grocery store cashiers, my husband, or even God, control the timing in my life. I want to have power over what happens and when it happens. It is, perhaps, a natural inclination, but it is also a spiritual issue. My unwillingness to wait is, fundamentally, an unwillingness to trust God, and to give over my life, from the small details to the big picture, to God’s care and control.

If I am honest with myself, I know that waiting is an important spiritual practice. It forces me to let go of the death grip that my hands have on the details of my life and acknowledge that God’s desires are more important than my wishes. It reminds me that trusting God and waiting on the Lord, as difficult as they might be, are essential to the Christian life. And if I take a moment, and look back over the times in the past that I have been called to sit and wait, with baited breath and badly bitten nails, I can see that God has always, always, come through in the end.

Yes, exactly. God will come through here, if we can just make space for the still, small voice of God amongst all the noise of our culture and our Communion squabbles.

We’re not waiting for news. The waiting is the news.

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4 Responses

  1. John-Julian, OJN says:

    You might be interested: the axiom of the (contemplative) Order of Julian of Norwich is:

    AWAIT, ALLOW, ACCEPT, ATTEND.

  2. Ann says:

    Have you ever waited in Tanzania— everyone piles on – no line – just try to get to be first. I could not believe the airport – people were standing behind the counter, around the counter, on the counter – while the one ticket agent tried to sort out a severely overbooked flight to Nairobi from Dar es Salaam. ‘mericans look down right patient in comparison.

  3. Mary Clara says:

    Scott, I’m really enjoying your posts. And this one is especially insightful and pertinent. “We’re not waiting for news. The waiting IS the news.”

  4. dennis says:

    nice quote by Rev’d Shobe. I wouldn’t mind hearing more from her.

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