As I stood waiting for the Humane Society to show up, I kept a careful watch on the injured animal. I could see she was struggling and since our amazing Humane Society helps wildlife as well as domestic animals, I had called them; I wanted to give this girl a fighting chance. I stood by, trying, by my physical presence, to create an invisible periphery near the animal. I was alert to dogs coming along the river for their walk, watching and hoping that I could avert them quickly if they chose to investigate the scene. I was also alert for humans – specifically, little humans that can dart and dash and run and screech (bless them, those little humans!!) – so that I could redirect them from a path near the animal.
…and I waited…
…and I waited some more.
With each passing quarter hour, I became a bit more anxious.
When would they arrive? I wondered.
Can I keep dogs and kids away so that she doesn’t get spooked and try to escape?
In the moment I recognized that I was waiting
…. and that it felt excruciating to me.
During other times of anxiety, I have attempted numerous things: trying to pray away the anxiety, trying to receive God’s peace in the situation, repressing or ‘stuffing’ the anxiety and pretending that everything is all right, or repeating Scripture verses under my breath.
This time, I pictured Jesus coming towards me in my mind’s eye. I told him that I was anxious, and that I was struggling in the moment to feel peace. I pictured him putting his arm over my shoulder, and standing with me. He was quiet. I was quiet. I was still anxious…. but Jesus was with me in it.
I invited Jesus into my anxious waiting. And he met me there.
He accepted that I was waiting… not with patience, but with anxiety. And he stood there with me. He was not chastising me, or preaching at me about why I didn’t need to be anxious. He was with me in the waiting.
It was a shift. A small shift, perhaps, but definitely a difference.
As my own spiritual director has been teaching me, I am to ask the big emotion of the moment what it has to say to me. So, in my time of waiting, I asked what the anxiety had to say.
The sense that I got was that I was having ‘control issues’. I was wanting to control things that I could not control:
- off-leash dogs
- running children
- other people, wandering close by
- the arrival of the Humane Society
- the injured animal and her decision to leave the area or not
All of this was causing some anxiety. I wanted my ideal outcome: I wanted dogs, people and children to stay away, I wanted the Humane Society to arrive sooner rather than later, I wanted the animal to stay in her spot so that we could capture her and get her some help.
This issue of control is a spiritual issue as well. How many times do I want to control life and the circumstances in it? How many times do I want to make the call to see things turn out differently? And in essence, is not the issue that I am not fully trusting God, not fully believing that God is the One who knows best? I am human and am not able to see the larger picture, the picture that God sees….
And this, in turn, is connected to the virtue of humility. As Ben Patterson writes in his book “Waiting: Finding Hope when God seems Silent”,
“Humility makes patience possible because it shows us our proper place in the universe. God is God…. I can be impatient only if I think that whatever it is I want is being withheld or delayed unfairly…. God has the love to desire what is best for all his creatures and the wisdom to know what is best.” (p.167-8)
I am a work in progress. Slowly, slowly learning about humility in my walk with Jesus. Slowly being transformed into someone who looks more like Jesus! It is not my doing. Only the Holy Spirit can transform a heart. And this is why I choose to practice spiritual disciplines, like this one, and others. Earlier, I wrote about my present spiritual practice of ‘waiting’ and what God has been teaching me through it. God continues to show me things through this practice and sometimes, like this time, it feels unexpected and larger than just “learning patience” which initially, I thought it was about.
Who knew that an injured goose on my daily walk would lead to a spiritual revelation about control?? God is amazing, in the way that He speaks through the everyday circumstances of life. It is what makes faith and a living, personal walk with God so worth it.