We Wait for God, But God Waits for Us?

Rev. Jim Carr, Minister of Pastoral Care

I continue to share thoughts from an article by Henri Nouwen, “A Spirituality of Waiting: Being Alert to God’s Presence in Our Lives.” At the beginning, Nouwen says, “I would like to look at two aspects of waiting. One is the waiting for God, and the other is the waiting of God.” Up to this point, we have been reflecting on the nature and practice of our waiting for God. This may be what attracts most of us to a title like this. But we finished those thoughts last week. Now, we turn to the thought that God waits for us. For me, this relates more to being alert to God’s presence in my life. I confess that this second part has pushed me to enter new territory.

Nouwen begins this new section by sharing the story of his relationship with a friend who was very sick with cancer. He would die soon. His friend said, “Help me to think about this situation in a new way. Help me to think about my not being able to do anything anymore so I won’t be driven to despair. Help me to understand what it means that now all sorts of people are doing things to me over which I have no control.” Nouwen and his friend read and discussed a book together, The Stature of Waiting by W. H. Vanstone. Nouwen says, “It helped my friend and me struggle together to better understand what it means to move from action to passion.”

I am going to go from bite size to nibbles in presenting Nouwen’s thoughts. The basis of what Nouwen says is in Vanstone’s book. I’ll reflect on the book later. But, I need to share with you that this section has pushed me to expand my thinking on scripture, especially Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and then his passion and crucifixion. How was God in these events? It has also asked me to reconsider my perception of the mystery of the divine presence in our waiting. I’ll begin to share Nouwen’s thoughts next week so that we can take the time we need.

But, how is this relevant to you and me? Its relevance is found in the context: a conversation between two friends about how to understand the experience of facing a life threatening issue and not being able to do anything about it. I think that this is a question most of us ask, whether we are facing cancer, or a disabling condition, or the coronavirus. I think this touches almost all of us.