Waiting and Waiting and Waiting Some More

The path around the pond is gray. The grass, normally lush this time of year, lies in brown clumps and pale green patches.  Even the hanging moss looks beleaguered, drooping from dry limbs.

The pond itself is half its size and the fountain is still.  A dull mechanism sits in the shallow center like a fallen robot.  Muddy water ripples only in a spring breeze.  While last season I trekked mud home, now there’s only dust, so fine it somehow seeps through my socks and into the crevices of my toes.

The duck family sits along a dry bank, as if the water is too stale and warm for bathing, drinking or swimming.  The largest duck waddles to the edge, like an old lady dabbing her toe into a pool, then turns back to the others and quacks, as if to say the water is too warm to be refreshing.  She settles herself in a shady spot free of the late afternoon sun.  I like to imagine that we share the same thought, wondering when the rains will come.

Many here wait for rain, longing for it, like the imminent grace we can’t yet feel.  I now feel silly carrying an umbrella and imagine saying, “Fine, God. I’ll call Your bluff.  Let it pour so I’m soaked to the bone and glad about it.”

Alas, God never plays our game of bluff.  And the pond recedes further to reveal a mid-bank which divides the sections in half, like a hard-boiled egg split in two.  I continue my walks, contemplating the dull patches, faded leaves and shriveled berries even the birds ignore.  I continue to walk, and wait, knowing that rain must come soon, though I know not when.

In scripture, someone always waits.  Time after time, in so many ways, we’re told to wait upon the Lord, wait for a sign, wait for God.  As I consider verse after verse, I realize that our ancient ancestors seem as impatient as we are, and they didn’t have fast food, drive-through pharmacies or Netflix.

Waiting for rain, or anything else requires a certain level of faith and trust, as well as perseverance and strength.  It isn’t easy to wait, wait and wait some more, trusting that we’ll meet the love of our life; land the perfect job; receive hopeful test results; get admitted to the university, society, program, club of our choice; grow our savings; age gracefully.

Tom Petty understood this when he sang:

The waiting is the hardest part . . .
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part.

I want the wait for rain — and all else I desire — to be as easy as possible.  So, for now, I leave the umbrella home.  My tote bag — and my mind — are lighter.  Soaking, steady rain will come again, and I’ll let it wash over me, the way God’s grace always does, exactly when we need it most.

© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

On All Sides

People around the world enjoy sports: baseball, basketball, football, golf, hockey, rugby, track and field, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, among many others.  And as much as we may think that spirituality and sports are unrelated, even a casual fan can notice a team praying before a game, one athlete meditating before he or she steps onto the field, and another pointing skyward and thanking God for a victory.

Even more interesting is what the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) discovered: 25% of Americans believe that God plays a role in determining which teams win sporting events.  In addition to God’s role in a game’s outcome, 53% of Americans believe that God blesses faithful athletes with abundant health and success.  Yet, 20% of sports fans also believe that their team has been cursed at some point.  Still another 28% say that they’ve prayed that God supports their team.

The challenge with these beliefs is that they create a capricious, puppeteer deity, a god which plays with our lives like a cosmic chess match, moving us around on some heavenly game board.  It presumes that God chooses winners and losers, establishing a special bracket only one person or team can win at some pre-determined time.

Yet, the truth is: God doesn’t create brackets or pick favorites.  Though sometimes, we do.  God doesn’t move us around.  We choose where we’ll go, what we’ll do, who we’ll be and how we’ll play our own game.  We decide whether to make winning or losing the ultimate prize or whether we’ll get into the game for the pure experience and joy of it.  When we believe that God plays roles or holds positions, we forget that God is infinite compassion, overflowing grace and unconditional love, a power and presence so awesome and wondrous, we won’t ever fully comprehend it.

As we grow in spiritual maturity, we begin to realize that no matter which playing field we’re on, we choose how we’ll live and how we’ll do what all spiritual masters do: Live as the beloved, divine creations of God we are, no matter which team we’re on.  We also stop diminishing others or trying to wrestle the trophy away from someone else.  We become masters of our own spiritual practice first.  We invest time in contemplation, meditation, prayer and reflection so we can align ourselves with God.

On the way, we also release the need to know how everything will turn out.  We walk by faith, rather than by sight.  We know someone or some team will win, though we don’t always know which one.

And as we grow, we remember the truth: God doesn’t take sides.  God is on all sides, with us, within us, around us, expressing through us, as us.  And at any moment, we can change our game and be on God’s side, too.

© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Get the Feeling

In the movie classic, Tootsie, struggling actress Sandy (Teri Garr) is furious with her friend Michael (Dustin Hoffman) and distressed about her failing career. After trying to be sweet and “nice,” pretending that everything in her life is “fine,” she captures a truth about knowing oneself.  She rants and declares: “I’m going to feel this way until I don’t feel this way anymore.”

Finally, Sandy reaches the place which many on the spiritual journey do, when we realize that we can no longer maintain false poise or hold one more forced smile.  Instead, we choose to feel our feelings, accept and embrace them, and use what we’ve learned to transform our lives.

To say that we’re never afraid, angry, anxious, broken-heartened, disappointed, discouraged, embarrassed, overwhelmed, upset, or a myriad of other feelings, is to pretend that we’re robots.  It denies our humanity — and ultimately, our divinity.

Theologian and philosopher Augustine of Hippo asked: “How can you draw close to God when you are far from your own self?”  So he prayed: “Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know You.”

Our awareness of ourselves and our relationship with God are inextricably linked.  If we deny ourselves sacred time for self-connection, through contemplation, meditation, prayer and reflection, we disconnect from God.

Furthermore, we struggle with life, believing that we’re emotionally healthy and spiritually mature because we deny our “negative” feelings and refuse to acknowledge them.  Sometimes we stuff them deep down inside where they begin to destroy us, in body, mind and spirit, from the inside out.

No matter where we are on our life’s journey, when we deny our feelings, we stall.  We avoid the divine messages our feelings provide.  We forget the truth: That God is always with us and within us, even when our candidate loses; we don’t get the job we wanted; we labor to release an addiction; our children or grandchildren don’t call or text; our “forever” sweetheart doesn’t love us anymore; an ailment doesn’t heal as we expected or desired; we have an accident; a friend moves away and forgets us; no one likes our social media posts; we watch a loved one die.

Yet, as we grow in spiritual maturity and emotional health, we realize that the feelings we believed would hinder us actually help us discern what we need and how we’d most enjoy living.  As we acknowledge the feelings, we also discover that they draw us closer to God, divine creator, unconditionally loving, infinitely compassionate, eternally grace-giving.

Ultimately, our feelings are part of our divinity, allowing us to know and embrace the truth of ourselves and others, too.  When we feel sad, confused, excited, joyous, or anything else, we’re feeling the life of God within.  We know that we’re alive – even when it isn’t fun.

Let us get the feelings.  Then, they won’t get us.

© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.