WAITING AS A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

Waiting as a spiritual practice is found in almost every religious tradition I can think of. 

For Muslims, the month of Ramadan, the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, marks a month of fasting, giving alms, abstinence from all things of the flesh,and active prayer. This is in an attempt to cleanse the soul, but also it is thought that using these methods of emptying out the cares and desires of the physical world, one is preparing and waiting for the revelations of God to be experienced.  This is what happened to Muhammad.  In fact, the holiest night of the Muslim year is Laylat al-Qadr, it falls just before the close of Ramadan, and commemorates the night when the Qu’ran was first revealed to the prophet Muhammad. 

In Jewish tradition, waiting and the practice of patience in the face of daunting circumstances, has been a recurring theme since the Book of Exodus and those ensuing dark days in the desert.  The Jewish people wait for the angel of death to pass over their households during Passover and recreate the stories of bitter times and the promise of sweeter days in the Seder.  Again, fasting, prayer, and self-denial carve pathways to this opening up of the soul.

The Christians now find themselves in the heart of Lent.  Christians too share these same tools of purification.  Yet they wait for something unique to the other monotheistic religions.  They wait for the day of Resurrection, the Day that Jesus rose from the dead.

And, yet, even if one does not believe in the actual physical revival of the Christ from the dead, the stories that rise up from the New Testament can resonate with each of us, teaching us the power of waiting in faith.

These are stories that speak of yearning and suffering.  Yearning for a better life, a purpose, a meaning, and the reality of pain.  The stories of Jesus of Nazareth are stories of hope and fear, loyalty and betrayal, acceptance and denial, life and death.  Jesus tasted both the success of his mountain ministry (see Matthew’s feeding of the 5000) and yet was still determined to go to Jerusalem, with death threats and a certain persecution.

His followers were waiting for a triumphant crowning of a king as the culmination of a glorious ministry.  Instead, they were confused and angry by a leader ridiculed and crucified.  Jesus tried to point out that this path he was on, was not one easily understood by the ways of the world, that his lessons were those of the spirit and not of earthly successes and kingdoms.  Certainly choosing to undergo great suffering is not a natural inclination. 

Our own stories of waiting for a better day, whether for a job that has not yet materialized, a healing from an illness (our own or a loved ones, or even a death), can find much solidarity with the Bible stories of Lent.  They are filled with expectation on one day, as Jesus heals a leper and brings the dead to life, and then disillusionment, despair, and death on the next.

 One of the definitions of resurrection that I can hold up to a broader, secular audience is the Greek notion of resurrection as the “state of one who has returned to life.”

We all have seen the grief-stricken and the broken find a way back to a full and happy life after the most unmitigable tragedies, this is the promise of resurrection that casts it net wide and yet does not strain the boundaries of the intellect.  It is the faith of waiting. 

Quote for the day: “Even if one glimpses God, there are still cuts and splinters and burns along the way.”

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3 thoughts on “WAITING AS A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

  1. Hullo Kat!
    You appear to have been busy, and that is great news!

    If you don’t mind I would like to rest my mind in the solace of your blog for a bit. I have been back from pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Medina and Mecca and have been recounting my experience… not my normal writing but a travelogue… and boy, its difficult.

    I hope things are well and good on your side of the planet. Here, after 2 weeks away, politicians still say the craziest things and life stumbles from one drama to another. But I am not here… my heart, and my mind is still adrit over the holy lands and cities.

    Do you know that in my bedside chit chat with my fellow pilgrims, I noticed that the big majority of them are praying, begging and pleading from God that one thing which you have mentioned in this article … more patience… more patience and even more patience.

    Many blessings to you, Kat. And many many more patience for you to brave the sweet and the bitter which this life has to offer. And to see beyond the facade of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fortune, to see this life simply as “is”. And that there is nothing given to us which God has not planned with kindness, love and mercy beyond the instruments which men with too much pride think they can guage the goodness or badness of an event.

    My mind is wandering a bit… its this flu medicine I am taking. I better stop, before I wander too far into the wilderness and fall of the edge of reason.

    Hehehe.

    Shalom!

    TK.

    • Dear Taufiq,

      What an amazing journey you have just returned from!

      I have spent this morning immersed in your blog posts and you have allowed me to feel as if I was right there with you. And as one committed to the spiritual journey (or should I say committable); your posts feel both like action packed adventure and soul awakening waters in the desert…with always the classic Taufiq’s self-deprecating humor laced throughout!

      Perhaps God is giving you a nudge, between the Shaykh and the SIGN to you the Smoker Hajj, that with His help you are ready to let go of this habit?? Just a thought of course….and I agree with the Prophet as well on the subject of changing habits. Mark Twain (an American author and humorist) once said, “Habit can’t be yanked down the stairs all at once, you have to coax it down one step at a time.”

      God has not been whispering but screaming at me lately, to learn to acquire patience, and giving me lesson after lesson and still the student balks. Last week, I was looking for an old repair bill on my oven in an old forgotten file. Instead, in the middle of old household receipts, I found the eulogy I wrote for my father 12 years ago….I hadn’t seen it in that long….and here is one of the things I wrote, “I feel so grateful today to say that I am my father’s daughter. I loved his wonderful energy, sage advice, and passion for living. He used to say, “I’m sorry Katrina, I couldn’t give you any patience because I didn’t have any to give.” Well, I’m still workin’ on that one, Dad, but you gave me the same tenacity with which you approached your one day at a times.”

      God speaks to us always, but we are mostly not listening! On a more superficial note, I really like your new bamboo background…

      Blessings on your day, Katherine

  2. Dear Katherine,

    Hiya dear soul. Its me, the wandering sinner. Hehehe. I hope you are well, and by the looks of your writing this past couple of weeks, you have been well and truly busy! But not too busy to write, and that is always good for the Universe. How do I know? Well, me and the Universe are good friends. The only problem is she tends to talk too fast, and has a southern slang.
    You are right of course, Kat. I should quit. But not yet. Not now. Perhaps sooner, perhaps later, I cannot say at this point. You know… you have a broadband connection with the Lord, you ask Him to make it easier for me, okay? “Easier – easier, Nun Tuck?! Anymore easier for this taufiq and he will be practically coasting through life like a funfair ride” – I can imagine God replying.
    You caucasians are certainly tenacious. Once you have an idea or ideal whirling in your heart, you are likely to make it happen – that’s wonderful, you know.
    I have been kinda busy – with work and writing, mika and living. Maybe i will share with you a little bedside conversation i had with Mikhail recently – “What do you want to be when you grow up, Mika”, i asked.
    “A venture capitalist, papa”, her replied.
    “Eh?! Do you even know what a venture capitalist does?, I enquired of this young capitalist. Easily he answered, “Well, Papa, first I borrow money from a bank. Then I buy a shop. Then I sell the shop at more than the price I bought it for. The money I get I split half-half between me and the bank.”
    Oh. Okay.
    Well, we have our children, don’t we, KAt? We may toil and trouble ourselves with our hopes and dreams, weaknesses and failures – but our children is being born upon a new hope in our times. According to Muslim belief, the end of times will be the darkest days of them all – but as one wise dead dude once shared with me – “Only when the night is darkest do the stars shine the brightest”. And certainly, our children will be stars in the night sky. Of this I hold my greatest hope. As perhaps your Dad also thought of you…

    Pax Taufiqa.

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