Waiting

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought…
TS Eliot, East Coker III

It is Lent. Soon it will be Holy Week and, before you know it, the Resurrection. To enter into His story, which is your story, you must suspend your expectation of Resurrection. Forget Easter. You have to live Good Friday and Holy Saturday as if they are the end of the story. You must “wait without hope”, “without love”, for you do not know what Resurrection looks like, else you will pre-empt the as-yet-unknown, surprising work of God.


I have been struggling with low-back-and-leg-pain in the last few weeks. The osteopath has diagnosed an inflamed piriformis muscle, and whilst I value her ministrations, the pain continues.

I have learnt a lot from this pain. I want to focus on one approach that is teaching me a lot. I try to find times in the day when I can walk slowly and mindfully, meeting with the pain.

Having given due thought to matters of first aid and medical need, here’s what to do with pain:

  • bring your attention to the place in this body that is hurting;
  • try to relax and to accept the pain;
  • breathe;
  • understand that you are in pain and you deserve to be treated kindly;
  • bring an attitude of kindness to this place of pain;
  • relax and accept the pain some more;
  • be ready for the place that is hurting to ‘tell its story’, be it in words, images, thoughts, feelings, sensations, impressions, memories, fantasies;
  • don’t push it;
  • wait.

When I do this, a body-sense-memory comes back, redolent of early childhood – an atmosphere of relaxed, being-in-the-moment, connection; at ease with myself and the world. I have images of my bedroom and the view outside my window. I remember my love of trees, plants, mini-beasts, birds. I realise that everything I know about God has its roots in certain formative experiences of those early years. The veracity of all I have learnt since is tested against these experiences. My work is based on this.

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.
TS Eliot, East Coker III

There is more. I am ‘sore’ because something of my essence has become lost over the years – not lost, but lost sight of, forgotten, like so much of childhood – and is letting me know that it needs my attention. I do not yet know all it wants to say.

Perhaps there is no end to what I might know. I do know it is of crucial importance. It is like a small, shy, wary mole poking her nose out of her burrow, snuffling the air, checking to see whether it really is safe to venture out. No amount of anxious coaxing will reassure her. Only peaceful, patient, generous, kindly waiting.

In this state of not knowing, this not-yet of a Holy Saturday, it is necessary for you to wait without hope or love. You do not yet know what you are hoping for, or what you will love. Yet there is faith: you must continue to trust that the waiting is precious. The pain in this body will tell you one day. But, like Resurrection, you will not know what it is until it arrives.

        You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
    You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
    You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
    You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.
TS Eliot, East Coker III

4 thoughts on “Waiting

  1. I love the TS Eliot quotes, and I really get this, ie the waiting game. I have had both Good Fridays and Easter Saturdays in my life and know the pain and benefit of them …. but only, it seems, in retrospect. At the time I was full of frustration and blame, trying to trust God but hating the feelings of weakness and helplessness. It’s only now that I can see it all as a ‘refining fire’ and feel grateful for it – and perhaps face any future Good Fridays with more trust and kindness.
    I also love the image of the wary mole. I’ve been thinking of prayer as being like wildlife photography, requiring patience and stillness and a keen inner eye to detect the quiet gentle movement of God.

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