Something is Happening; How to Live it Out

Rev. Jim Carr, Minister of Pastoral Care


I have been sharing thoughts from Henri Nouwen’s, “A Spirituality of Waiting: Being Alert to God’s Presence in Our Lives.” We have listened as he has spoken about the nature of waiting. This week, we hear what he says about the practice of waiting.

Nouwen says, “Now let me say something about the practice of waiting. How do we wait? One of the most beautiful passages of scripture is Luke 1:39-56, which suggests that we wait together, as did Mary and Elizabeth. What happened when Mary received the words of promise? She went to Elizabeth. Something was happening to Elizabeth as well as to Mary. But how could they live that out?”

In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet says, “To be, or not to be—that is the question.” Nouwen may give us an analogous way of stating our own issue: something is happening, how do we live it out? This is a big question, and it matters how we answer.

Nouwen goes on, “I find the meeting of these two women very moving, because Elizabeth and Mary came together and enabled each other to wait.”

“These two women created space for each other to wait. They affirmed for each other that something was happening that was worth waiting for. I think that is the model of the Christian community. It is a community of support, celebration, and affirmation in which we can lift up what has already begun in us. The visit of Elizabeth and Mary is one of the Bible’s most beautiful expressions of what it means to form community, to be together, gathered around a promise, affirming that something is really happening.”

I am quoting Nouwen a lot, but I simply have to quote the next paragraph in its entirety because I believe it speaks so well to what we are experiencing right now.

“The whole meaning of the Christian community lies in offering a space in which we can wait for what we have already seen. Christian community is the place where we keep the flame alive among us and take it seriously, so that it can grow and become stronger in us. In this way we can live with courage, trusting that there is a spiritual power in us that allows us to live in this world without being seduced constantly by despair, lostness, and darkness. This is how we dare to say that God is a God of love when we see hatred all around us. That is why we can claim that God is a God of life even when we see death and destruction and agony all around us. We say it together. We affirm it in each other. Waiting together, nurturing what has already begun, expecting its fulfillment—that is the meaning of marriage, friendship, community, and the Christian life.”