Monday, March 2, 2009

The Season of Waiting

It isn't time yet.

Several inches of picturesque snow on the re-frozen ground outside the window drum that into my dense head. This is the season of waiting, relentless waiting, for spring.

It seemed to be here. But the calendar says not. But then what about global warming? Could it really be so much earlier this year? Or to make up for last year's late hard cold that delayed the growing season by two full weeks?

Yes, wait. This is one of those seasons of farming that isn't on the calendar, the season of thinking it is spring when it is not, the season of waiting and wondering and thinking it is only to realize I've foolishly let it trick me again. I rehearse this same sequence of feelings every year at this time. It always tricks me.

My life says wait: An series of unexpected problems with the new property has tied up my time, attention, and energy this week, when I longed to be out planting things on those nice warm days last week. Today, when the annoyances of being a landlord were put on hold because offices aren't open on Sundays, it was frigid and snowy. Not much to be done except one last--hopefully--round of struggling with frozen hoses and malfunctioning stock tank deicers for the season. I could be frustrated, irritable and unreasonable without knowing it. But I recognize this as all part of the season.

Wait. I'm not sure if the day made that easier or harder.

My apprentice changed her schedule, so I had the day entirely free, except for the monthly local Shape Note Sing in the afternoon.

I cannot recall the last time I had a Sunday off like this. As I've written before, the conventional Sabbath is something I had to "lay down" (in the Quaker sense) since my Sabbatical, and since getting the job driving the bus.

I slept in a little bit--not really--because I ended up misreading the clock and getting up at the same time as usual thinking it was an hour later. Does that mean I got an extra hour of sleep? I THOUGHT I did, anyway!

Then what to do with my morning, after more than a year of apprentices on Sundays? My thoughts turned to a church I'd been wanting to visit for a long time, the Willow Springs Old Order German Baptist Church south of town. I know a number of the members from Farmer's Market. I've attended the German Baptist meeting in Jamesport with my Old Order River Brethren friends there, several times. Over the years, I've stumbled across the local meetinghouse several times on back road rambles south of town, but keep forgetting the exact location, the meeting time, and which Sunday of the month they meet in the evening instead of morning. I have a phone number for a member who offered to give me a ride sometime, more than a year ago, floating around the house on a small scrap of paper, turning up when I don't have time, absent when I think of dialing.

It's always a strange feeling to just show up at a strange church, whether my denomination or another. A real act of courage.

Today, though, every possible hesitation simply evaporated into thin air. I dressed, ate breakfast, picked up the first Bible that came to hand, and set forth with no thought of turning back. Either I would find Willow Springs, or I would enjoy a lovely Sunday drive int he snowy countryside. But something (someOne?) led me as surely as if by the hand, directly to the place. The meeting time on the sign was 10:00; it was 10:30. But without hesitation I mounted the steps to the broad doors and quietly walked in.

The scripture being read at that moment was one that spoke loudly to me: it was the same scripture that had been echoing deafeningly loudly in my spiritual ears since the moment I realized that there truly was no way for me to be reintegrated into the congregation that had disowned me when I went on Sabbatical, and failed to welcome me back.

After the long service (OOGB meet for 2 hours--actually not so long compared to the OORB's 3 hour services), several familiar faces quietly greeted me and bid me welcome to return. No big excitement to have a new face among the small gathering; no staring at the weird woman in pants and a rainbow covering; no overwhelming me with programs and schedules and special activities I might like to participate in. No guest book to sign, just a few hands to shake--old friends, and young strangers.

I cannot imagine myself ever becoming a member in a church such as this; the long, broken life that has led me to God holds a great many fragments that such a church will probably never embrace. And I can't commit to being single for the next 50 years, under their purity standards regarding divorce.

But how good it is to be among friends for a little while, and travel together on this spiritual journey with congenial companions even if our destinations are not quite the same, and our ways are foreign to one another.

Later, the church building that hosted the Shape Note sing was draped in purple, reminding me that today is the first Sunday in Lent. Lent has always been my favorite liturgical season, even before I was a Christian. Lent has somehow always made a lot more sense to me than any other facet of Christian practice. Perhaps because it hasn't been popularized and commercialized...exploited for worldly gain...although one might think of the current economic "season" as a national Lent of sorts. Hm.

My Lenten sacrifices in the past have been eclectic, sometimes whimsical, at times almost brutally Spartan. One year I moved into a tiny spare room with just a cot and a few books, and ceased speaking to the spouse I'd forgotten how to say anything nice to anyhow. It hurt us both, but it was better than the cruel words that were the only way I could find to voice my pain at that time in my life. One year I undecorated the entire house, putting away every item that did not have a practical function. Somehow I never needed such lavish decorations again. Last year I simply gave up Lent.

This year, perhaps I'm giving up giving up the Sabbath?

It isn't time, yet, for me to return to a normal life of just one job--a life with room for friendships and social activities and time for relaxation. I don't know when that life will be my lot again. But for a little while, waiting for spring, I can give up giving up leisure time.

And wait, for Lent is a season of waiting just as much as Advent. But it's a season of empty waiting, not the pregnant waiting of least for me. I'm sure the sheep are thinking more of Advent, if they think of such things.

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