Friday, December 30, 2011

For those who wait

"All things come for those who wait."  Does this sound familiar to you?  I thought it was from the Bible, but actually it's just an old English proverb, used perhaps most famously as "Good things come to those who wait" in a ketchup commercial in the 80's...

Whatever the source, clearly it lives on in my brain as if it were the word of God.  And it came to mind this morning as I was mulling over Henri Nouwen's words about the importance of solitude.

Nouwen believes (and of course, as a mildly introverted only child, I HEARTILY agree) that we all need solitude to help foster our spiritual lives, if not our sanity.

For Nouwen, solitude is meant to be an opportunity to listen for the word of God: he believes we need to create a quiet space within ourselves in order that we may be filled with an understanding of our purpose. But as anyone who attempts to create these kinds of quiet spaces knows, waiting is hard: the mind has a tendency to jump in with all the thoughts that preoccupy us during the day.

Fortunately, living on an island, I get lots of opportunities to practice waiting: any time I need to catch a ferry, I get to arrive early and sit in my car, waiting while the lot fills up with fellow travelers; waiting for the ferry to come and discharge its cars; waiting to load, and then sitting upstairs or in my car for the half-hour ferry ride to the city.

If I wait attentively -- always easier to do if there's a camera in the car -- I may see sights like this one, simple but appealing shapes or colors to invite my attention.  If I let my mind drift but continue to steer it away from my usual preoccupations, it frequently fills with music -- which is what happened as I sat quietly in my chair this morning, waiting for Henri Nouwen's words to bear fruit in me.

Today's music was a song from my childhood, sung every Sunday in the Presbyterian church where I grew up in suburban Cincinnati:

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until my will is one with Thine,
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.

(You can listen to a brief clip of this from River City Music by clicking here.)

What's curious is that I only remember singing the first verse; and I remember the third line as "that I may live as thou wouldst live," so I'm wondering if perhaps someone modified it for use in a particular part of the service, as a response.

Whatever the original words, and whatever the use, I am nonetheless grateful that this appeared in my head as I was waiting in silence this morning: if feels like a gift for the day.


Louise Gallagher said...

And what a beautiful gift for all of us to enjoy.

Maureen said...

Wonderful post, Diane. I'm pleased to be reading late in the day; it's calming. Lovely poem up, too.