I’ve been learning about waiting.
After avoiding it for three years, I tested positive for COVID-19 at the beginning of July—just in time to disrupt the return of the Grand Wallace Road Trip.
Each year we pile the kids into our vehicle and drive hard from Saskatchewan to Montana to Michigan and back to visit family. Or at least, we did until the pandemic started.
Now, instead of the road trip, we’ve got disappointment and uncertainty. My symptoms haven’t been bad, but my quarantine has put our much-anticipated family reunion on hold indefinitely. We are waiting for my body to clear this virus.
I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched;
My eyes fail while I wait for my God. (Psalm 69:3)
Waiting is uncomfortable. I hear this from congregations waiting on an uncertain future. We know we’re tired, dwindling, aging. We don’t know how to find life for the future.
Discomfort breeds worry. “Do we have what it takes to keep going?”
Some people start scrambling. With enough hustle and hard work, we tell ourselves, we can fill the pews and meet the budget. We can start new programs or revive old ones. We can rejig our policies or rewrite the constitution.
Other people weigh the odds and resign themselves to what seems increasingly inevitable, wondering if the congregation even has the energy necessary for the work of closure.
You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day. (Psalm 25:5)
I’ve been reading Churches and the Crisis of Decline by Andrew Root. Our society, he explains, assumes the answer to uncertainty is resources (such as people, programs and policies). When we feel unsteady, we try to access new resources. If we can’t, we give up. Our culture believes having resources is what brings life.
But the story of our faith doesn’t depend on resources. Instead, life comes from God. Root contrasts the pressure to live by what we have (what we can control and what we do with it) to a posture of simply being, where our life isn’t so much about what we do but who we’re with.
At its heart, this is a question of the kind of story we’re living in.
Is this a story about the church, where the plot hangs on congregations getting the job done (and staying alive to do the work)?
Or is this a story about God showing up with healing and hope for the world—a story that gathers us in congregations to witness, petition and praise?
I hear God telling a story where we watch and wait. We wait—actively in prayer, in action—for God to show up with healing that’s beyond all our resources and expectations, healing for the whole world.
I’m learning while I wait. “With waiting, energy is understood to arise not from within ourselves but from a hope that is outside us,” Root writes.
So much is out of my control, but I find life when I choose to show up, to watch and to wait.
My soul waits in hope for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning;
Yes, more than the watchmen for the morning. (Psalm 130:5-6)
Josh Wallace is church engagement minister at Mennonite Church Saskatchewan. He lives in Saskatoon and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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