Therefore, brothers and sisters, you must be patient as you wait for the coming of the Lord. Consider the farmer who waits patiently for the coming of rain in the fall and spring, looking forward to the precious fruit of the earth. You also must wait patiently, strengthening your resolve, because the coming of the Lord is near. Don’t complain about each other, brothers and sisters, so that you won’t be judged. Look! The judge is standing at the door!
Brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord as an example of patient resolve and steadfastness. Look at how we honor those who have practiced endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job. And you have seen what the Lord has accomplished, for the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
James 5:7-11 (CEB)
At 19 years old, as a young Airman fresh out of Tech School, I received my first orders to Germany. While I had actually lived in Germany before, this was the first time I was returning with a Driver’s License. I was excited. Germany is legendary for its system of Autobahns, smooth multi-lane expressways with long stretches where there is no enforced speed limit. I grew up going to drag races with my Pop Pop. I was ready.
I got there, purchased the exceptionally run-down, old car this E-2 could afford (a 1986 Ford Scorpio with unnecessary Recaro seats), and pointed it south for a getaway to Bavaria. In the area around the base, there are speed limits posted and enforced: 100km/h (about 60mph) in urban areas. As the landscape shifted from cities to smaller villages it climbs to 120km/h, and then, finally, the sign I’d been waiting to see: 130km/h. The other signs indicate hard limits and an unpleasant interaction with the Polizei if you violate them. 130km/h means “go for it.”
So, I went for it. I planted the pedal to the floor and watched the speedometer (slowly) climb. 130. 140. 150. 160 (that’s 100 miles an hour, for we Imperial system types). 170. 180. Now, this car was actually a pretty pleasant place to be at normal speeds. But with the engine climbing past the redline, it was screaming too loud to talk or hear the radio. The steering wheel was communicating unpleasant vibrations and wobbles. 190. I felt like I could watch the fuel gauge drop at this point, and given that gas was about $5/gallon at the time, I took my foot off the pedal and pulled back in the right lane. Audis and Porsches, Beamers and Benzes continued to shoot past me on the left for the rest of the drive, but I stuck to around 130. I never felt the need to drive that fast again, either. I did it once and that was enough.
Maybe if I’d had a different car it would’ve been more fun. I don’t know. I do know that we are prone to desire speed in all areas of our lives. The drastic adjustments we are all making this week which will likely continue through the months ahead are going to require us to slow down or we will burn out. People are bringing their work selves to bear on their homes, enthusiastically cleaning, organizing, sorting, and all the rest… and this is mostly good! It’s healthy and a great way to seize this moment. However, and while this may seem like an impossible thing to say: there is only so much you can do. Those to-do lists that seemed so insurmountable while commuting or consumed with the daily rituals of travel, of coming and going… they are going to be completed in record time.
And then… what? What do we do when there’s nothing left to do?
The contemplative tradition offers us a path to living well in the months to come. Contemplatives understand that in prayer and practice, sometimes waiting on the experience of God takes 5 minutes, sometimes 15, and some days it just doesn’t happen. It requires a reorientation and a reevaluation of our sense of time and what we need to do in that time. We find ourselves, for better and worse, suddenly with some time on our hands. My prayer is that we pace ourselves and find comfort in the deep practice of patience.
Suggested Podcast For This Week: Another Name For Every Thing with Fr. Richard Rohr: https://cac.org/podcast/another-name-for-every-thing/
Suggested Reading: Everything Belongs, by Fr. Richard Rohr
Grace and Peace,