Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Waiting (Portion Ki Tisa)

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you get one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part
            -Tom Petty

For the Israelites at the foot of Mt. Sinai, the waiting really is the hardest part.  Forty days after Moses ascended into a dense cloud atop the mountain, he has yet to return.  Tired of waiting and fearing the worst, they panic.  In the mounting fear, terrified of being abandoned by both God and God’s chosen leader, they turn to Aaron and plead with him to build them a golden calf to stand in Moses’ place.  Aaron, deep in the throes of his own anxiety, obliges.  The rest is history.

But we should not be overly critical of the Israelites.  It is, indeed, extraordinarily difficult to wait out our seasons of suffering and discontent.  When we descend into our own dark nights of the soul, we, too, are tempted to push away the pain with forms of instant gratification.  We anaesthetize ourselves with all sorts of numbing agents, or settle for other easy but ultimately inadequate forms of short term relief.  We forget—or cannot bear— the truth of Talmud’s wisdom: “According to the labor, so is the reward.”  As writer Sue Monk Kidd notes in her beautiful book, When the Heart Waits, real spiritual growth demands patience.  If we wish to emerge like butterflies, we must learn to successfully endure the long, uncertain darkness of the cocoon.

This week, consider: where do you find the kind of courage that might sustain you in life’s seasons of darkness and doubt?  How can community help you to grow through such times?

Meanwhile, here’s a relevant section of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poem, “I am Waiting”:

I am waiting
to get some intimations
of immortality
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again   
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn   
to catch each other up at last
and embrace
and I am awaiting   
perpetually and forever

a renaissance of wonder

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