To Wait

When you make a promise there is a latent energy in all that is to come – the time that will unfold in the season when your promise is in effect. In the moment of your promise, feeling noble and hopeful, you imagine many things, like a bride hand-in-hand with her groom, saying those words about sickness and health, plenty and want, better and worse. It’s not possible for her to know what that will look like but she promises anyway.

Maybe later she is sitting by an injured man in a hospital bed, awaiting the outcome of tests and surgeries. Will it give them their life back – the one in their vision when they said “We can do this”? Will she spend the rest of her life as a caretaker of a paralytic? The future gapes at her, gawks at her, throws her promise in her face. She feels naive, stupid perhaps, for those words she spoke when she had no idea how ambitious they were.

We were so young, we had no fear
We were so young, we had no idea

(Souvenirs, by Switchfoot)

Her stomach turns and she tells herself that she never should have said those words because she doubts she has it in her. She is no hero, and now this love is nothing if not heroic. If she’d been able to see this view from the mountaintop where she stood as she imagined how everything would be, she would have not boasted such confidence. She certainly would never have let her husband get in the car that morning.

Maybe it will all be flames and ashes. Maybe it won’t all be OK. Maybe she’ll be a widow and lose the new house to hospital bills. These things do happen. It’s only a matter of time and all she has the power to do is wait for the other shoe to drop.

There are moments – and they are not glamorous ones – when to love is to wait. There is nothing you can do. The whole system is broken. Everything’s in pieces around you like so many limbs after a bombs’ blast but you are no medic. In the early moments you speak from a posture of faith, hope, and love: “God is strong. He will do all things well. I will be here with you until we see the clouds break.” But then you see the size of those clouds and you realize they are going to get darker before they begin to dissipate. Perhaps, actually, they will fall right out of the sky and smother the lot of you.

But on this particular day they haven’t fallen out of the sky yet, and the forecast is that it’s all going to unfold quite slowly. So right now you are waiting, and waiting is hard. If only you could do something. Then at least you could make some progress. But this is not the time for progress. God suspends us in time and then suspends time. So you have a moment to sit back and take in your surroundings and that’s when you see those clouds. You see how angry they’re looking compared to when you first noticed them and made big claims that everything would be OK. What a silly thing to think. Pure folly. You realize the trajectory of those clouds and you can’t even think faith, hope, and love anymore for the tornado in your minds’ eye. All you have in view is fear.

In the quiet of that hospital room the devastated bride begins to stand up for herself. She had every reason to make those vows. She was naive, so what? It was the right thing to do, and she knew it then. The thing about vows is that they bind you to your ideals so when you finally get a glimpse of what those ideals will call from you in future days and future years it’s too late to weigh your options again.

The only thing left for her is courage. The beauty of courage is its simplicity and its immediacy. Courage doesn’t ask her to know the answers or pass judgments or turn the clock back or fix anything broken. It asks her to sit there, scared and sad, and wait. She doesn’t feel like a hero, but she hasn’t walked away, and that is courage. Neither does courage ask her to know the future or process its fear and pain. It asks her to sit there, humbly aware that the future has potential for wave upon wave of scared and sad, and wait. She can’t face tomorrow’s pain yet, but she knows it’s enough to refuse to think about it, and she knows that when tomorrow becomes today she will not stop sitting there, and that is courage. Courage, like every other virtue, won’t be stock-piled.

There’s love, too, and love and courage look the same today. Her shell of a husband is lying beside her, and if he could speak, if he could tell her how to love him, he would ask her to stay with him – to sit beside him and wait. He wouldn’t expect her to know the future, change the past, venture a treatment plan or even a diagnosis, or have an opinion. He would only want her there beside him for better or for worse. Either one. It wouldn’t matter.

We were so young, we had no fear
We were so young, we had no idea
That nothing lasts forever
That nothing lasts forever
Nothing lasts, nothing lasts
You and me together
Were always now or never

I wouldn’t trade it for anything
(Souvenirs, by Switchfoot)

(Disclaimer! Nobody is dying and my husband and I are enjoying good health and a delightful and peaceful marriage. This is a piece of creative writing, an exploration of concepts that have been bouncing around in my crazy head – another dimension of what Wednesday Grace is. Please no “Are you OK!?” emails, thanks.)

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