A woman suffered from a terrible headache. When she went to the emergency room, she came home with a diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumor. Her friend, surrounding her with love, began to watch and wait. The friend didn’t panic or try to find a way to fix what wasn’t fixable. She simply was present, resting in God, holding the woman in Love. Of course the friend hurt, grieved, wondered why it had to be. And she celebrated their friendship. She held all these feelings in an inner place of quiet and trust, as she carried the woman in her heart and her prayer.
I was on retreat, giving time and focus to preparing upcoming talks. For a while I tried to push my way through the work I had to do. I read relevant material from book after book, continuing even when I was sleepy and losing interest. The harder I worked, the less useful the work was. Remembering I was on a spiritual retreat, I stopped the pushing and controlling. I surrendered and began to watch and wait. I listened to what my body needed. I did things that brought joy. And when I heard in my heart that it was time to do more preparation, I turned to that, receiving what was given me.
To watch and wait is important in the contemplative life–a life grounded in God, being seated at the feet of Jesus, open to the leading of the Spirit. Its opposite is busyness, being preoccupied with what is coming next, rushing from one thing to another and never being fully present anywhere. When we watch and wait, we are inwardly and outwardly attentive, mindful, observant, prayerful, and present with our hearts open and tender. In order to be so, we will be surrendered and trusting in Holy Mystery.
Being in limbo can be a time of high anxiety and stress or an invitation to watch and wait. What has been your experience?
What allows you to live in the quiet surrender of watching and waiting?
“Stay with me. Remain here with me. Watch and pray. Watch and pray.” (Sing this Taize chant over and over. It invites a felt sense of being present with Jesus and of Jesus being present with you.)
For further reference:
“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).
“Only in God is my being quiet. From God is my rescue. Only God is my rock and my rescue, my stronghold—I shall not stumble” (Psalm 62: 1-2, Robert Alter, The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary).