Living in Wait
The earth is cold under my finger nails, granular black bits of time sticking to skin. I know what I’m made of. Today, with me bent in this place, earth’s damp soaking through denim’s knees, chilling me through, I too am waiting to return. I dig holes with a wedge of steel, waiting to return to earth too, and soul to ascend.
Around the fringes of the dome, clouds scud grey, but here in the center, November sun glows warm, enduring. Dad had called first thing in the morning, just in case I missed the weather forecast, just so I knew: if I had anything to do outside, today looked like the last day. Might be the last day to dig in bulbs, before autumn begins her blustery, muddy wrestle with winter.
I had nodded. Yes, Dad. Bulbs, today, will do. And last clean up of the flowerbeds. Thank you for calling, thinking of me, Dad.
I had hardly hung up the receiver before it rang again, a friend, whose first words spoke of weather too: brooding storm bearing down.
“What do I do when I just don’t know how to go on?” Her voice cracked, her dreams, a flash of pain tearing up the skies. I listened to all these expectations flaking, rusting in the harsh winds. All these worn out, fading hopes.
“Just a day to be sad, I guess. Today, I’m not up to trying to fix or solve any of it. Just grieving today.” And then the quiet rain of tears.
Together, we let the lament come.
Then I went and gathered up bulbs, pulled out the spade, and went to dig holes, because I’m just dirt with no answers, only prayers.
“Is this deep enough, Mama?” Little Shalom digs her own hole alongside mine. Yes, that should be good enough.
“Why do we have to dig so deep?” Malakai’s face reddens with this excavating.
Well, child, some things are meant to really be laid down.
“I’m going to drop mine in now.” Kai’s holding his bulb poised, looking my way for assurance.
“No!” Little Shalom wails. “Don’t put the flower so far down in the dark, Kai!” She tries to wrest the bulb from Kai and I scoop her angst all up and comfort with a hug.
“But it has to go down in,” I brush the hair out of her eyes, kiss the tip of that pug nose.
And sometimes, child, the waiting’s dark. Dark and deep. Like the long nine waiting-months of a child unfurling in lightless depths.
She turns her face up towards mine and our cheeks brush. “Will we have to dig them up to get the flowers after the snow?”
I squeeze her tight. “No, Little One. In God’s perfect time, they will come up through the black earth as if by themselves.”
So we drop a bulb into opening earth. Little One’s little hands sprinkles soil over its bulging expectations, its sprouting green. Malakai pats the earth down and over.
We bury hope in a tomb of its own.
Don’t the best things in life necessitate long waiting?
Every tulip only blossoms after cold months of winter wait.
The only way any human being ever comes into existence is through the womb waiting.
And the only kingdom that will last for eternity still waits, this millennia-long, unwavering-hope of waiting for the return of its King. Waiting for Him who will be delivered in His time through time and usher us out of time and so we wait, oh we long, for such a time as that.
Maybe every day we dig holes? We bury our swollen prayers in Him who’s raised from the tomb. We lay our expectations, full and tender, into the depths of Him and wait for God to resurrect something good. Raise life up out of the dark, cold deeps.
We wait like the early church whose every breath was one of palpable expectation. Instead of chafing, we accept that waiting is a strand in the DNA of the Body of Christ. For this waiting on God is the very real work of the people of God in a world chomping to forge ahead though the cloud pillar stills.
So we kneel down into now’s soil, cold damp seeping through, plant deep prayers, then wait “for the forces above and below and beyond our control to work upon”* all these things.
Until, in the fullness of time, His time, God’s good will emerges, unfolds.
Kai digs again and I reach down into earth with a bulb and remember my friend’s morning call and her sadness depths today. The bulb in the palm of my hand feels life warm. Every person needs hope planted at the bottom of their hole. Through long storms and winter’s howl, could she too wait, swollen with prayers, expectant?
She’s surprised when she opens her front door, finds me standing there.
“Gotta little spade I can borrow?” I grin and she raises her eyebrows. I hold out a hand of bulbs and whisper softly. “I just wanted to tuck some hope into that grieving hole today…” My eyes embrace hers.
“He’ll resurrect good things out of this too– hold on…. ‘Blessed are all who wait.’”
Her chin trembles and she nods and walks to her storage shed for a little shovel.
“In this front bed? They’re early pink tulips, tall.” I try to show the height with my hands.
“Yes, in that front corner… so I can see them from the window.” She manages a smile.
I think about pain and entering into sadness as I dig down. I drop a bulb deep. There’s hope there too.
Hands filling the hole in with dirt, I think about the quiet rain of tears that waters buried prayers waiting for change. Waiting for better things. Waiting — no, yearning — for the return of the King and all the perfection we weep for.
She holds out her hand in thanks and I smile, first brushing dirt off my own. I know what we’re made of, what we’re about. The bulbs are buried and we will pray and look forward, always forward.
We live in wait.
*(Streams in the Desert)
Photos: Children and I planting bulbs