How do we help parishioners use seasons of waiting to strengthen their faith?
Summer is filled with transitions. It is a time to wait—holy waiting. It is a time between now and not yet, a time when we are very aware of what is behind us but not sure of what lies ahead. We wait for new jobs, a new school year, a new home. It is holy because we sense it is both God ordained and God directed.
Holy Waiting Is Active Waiting
Holy waiting is active, not passive. Don’t sit around hoping God will do something new; actively move forward and listen to God and to others as you shape the new. This is the kind of waiting we need to embrace whenever we are unsure of the path ahead.
With this in mind, let’s look at six aspects of holy waiting.
Holy waiting begins with listening.
- We listen to God.
- We listen to our own inner promptings.
- We listen to the wisdom of community (at least we should).
Community listening and group discernment are often the most neglected aspects of listening in times of transition and change. In many ways, though, these are the most important. None of us hears the voice of God clearly 100% of the time. Our cultures, our world views, and our leadership styles all get in the way. Friends, colleagues, and consultants provide the checks and balances we need to keep us on track.
But listening in community often seems to slow a process down. We want to hurry along and reach the destination, but healthy waiting takes time.
I am currently transitioning out of leadership at Mustard Seed Associates. The listening process began four years ago. It involved many people both inside and outside the MSA community. At times it has seemed to drag, even grind to a halt. Yet, God has always been at work in the background helping us ask the right questions and reach for the right solutions. Without community involvement we may have moved faster, but I suspect we would have made more mistakes.
One of the hardest questions I have had to ask myself as I prepare to step out of leadership is, “What should I have done differently?”
Not only is not easy to ask, it’s even harder to answer honestly to myself and to others. To face with honesty and vulnerability the mistakes we make and the wrong steps we take is an important step on the path towards wholeness. Seeking forgiveness from those who have been hurt by our imperfect ways is even more important. It frees us up to move forward and releases those who follow from the baggage we leave behind.
Prayer seems an obvious way to spend our time in a season of holy waiting—but often we pray in all the wrong ways. Our prayers become demands for specific answers rather than prayers for God’s wisdom and direction.
Holy waiting calls for holy prayers that are more about active listening than talking, more about finding the right questions than seeking the right answers. Keep a journal. Write down the questions that come to mind and the responses you sense God gives.
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Holy waiting is a time for reaching out to others. How can we serve our neighbours, colleagues, and those around us as we would like to be served? Serving gives perspective on our own lives, encouraging us not to think more highly of ourselves than we should. It liberates us from the need to be in control, opens our eyes to new ways of thinking, and makes us aware of new possibilities that God wants us to imagine.
Jesus constantly gave up power rather than grasped for it. He wouldn’t allow his followers to make him into the kind of leader the Jews and Romans specialized in, namely leaders who used authority to control and subjugate others. Through word and example, Jesus modelled true servant leadership.
He rarely told his followers how to do something; he asked questions that empowered them to reach into their hearts and find the answers God had already placed there. Serving others helps us grow into this type of leadership.
Holy waiting often bring awareness of injustice in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. Sometimes situations that have been festering quietly in our hearts suddenly spring to life. Waiting clarifies truth.
God nudges us to see how we have treated others unjustly or been treated unjustly and need to speak out. Listening to the still, small voices that help us make equitable and just decisions is much easier in times of holy waiting.
[Tweet “Waiting clarifies truth @ChristineSine”]
“Can rest be active?” you might ask. Yes! Holy waiting means learning to rest in each moment, to savour its beauty, and to connect to the God who is present in it in unique and special ways. This takes intentionality and purpose. Learning not to strive for future success or accomplishment is very countercultural and often seems counterintuitive. Our natural tendency is to forgo reflection, rushing through life with blinkers on. To change that is an act of the will, an act possible only when we wait. It does not come easily, but the rewards are enormous.
A Holy-Waiting Activity
Let’s consider ways to help parishioners identify their places of holy waiting and journal both their questions and God’s responses.
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