I’m not good at waiting. I never have been. Sadly, I can take after Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, “Daddy, I want a golden goose, and I want it NOW!”
Because the waiting is right where hope can feel a bit foolish.
I sat in the bathtub one morning as child and counted off on my fingers all the things that would need to happen for my transformation from “child” to “woman.” I listed things like “shave my legs” and “get married” and “have a baby.” Items that aren’t necessary to womanhood at all, and yet I didn’t have words to quantify things like strength of character, discipline, kindness, compassion. This list has always been in the back of my head. I’ve always wanted to be grown up. I had thought that waiting for things like college, travel, marriage, sex, and my own children would open up a path to freedom.
And now that I’m grown up with the responsibilities of raising my own brood of little people, I revel in their childhood. I wish I hadn’t been in such a hurry to cross over, because adulthood is not the freedom I thought it was. It’s bills and cooking and laundry and work. It’s the mundane.
Many days I get bogged down with the grind, with my own inability to see the Kingdom of God in my laundry piles, with all the ways I blow it as a mother when I lose it yet again. Sometimes I’ll stare mindlessly outside while doing the dishes: What I’m waiting for? Is it for my kids to go off to school so I can write in quiet? Is it for that book deal? That down payment so we can purchase a home? To put down roots and stay in one place? And then a child will whine he’s hungry or the rice will boil over, and I’m back in the present. But the questions and the waiting lurk like shadows.
And yet, this is the pain of living in the in-between spaces, the place where the Kingdom is both already here and not-yet. We’re gloriously stuck right in the middle. And like all growing pains and thresholds, we want to jump to what is waiting on the other side, to “be on the inside of some door, we have always seen from the outside,” like C.S. Lewis writes.
Adulthood hasn’t provided me the key to the other side. So I wait. I commit to the mundane tasks like laundry, washing up, cooking, and the spiritual disciplines: prayer, church, reading my Bible. Small, inconsequential things really. Things that do not feel like they move and shake the world; these things were not on the list of the “world-changer” job description I received from school and youth group.
And yet, I know in my bones that hope can look foolish and awkward like a gangly teenager. I know that hope flourishes only after it’s buried deep in the earth and rooted down in dark places. I know that hope comes bursting forth in spring and the crocuses and daffodils show us how color can push through winter snow. I know that if I cannot find God in my laundry piles that I’m unlikely to feel his presence when all the circumstances align just so.
So I suppose I’m waiting to be on that other side of the door—for glory, for all the horrible things that make our world feel like it’s spinning out of control to be put to right. It sounds like a fairy tale.
So right in the middle day between death and resurrection, I wait, clinging to the truth of the fairy tale. My children know it. Just this week, their eyes light up about Santa and Harry Potter and I watch them play hidden from view. I see the power of story enacted in their play. I see how words can create worlds, how synapses fire with imagination and how because of it, we all, are like the ancient Caedmon, drawn in to the dance.
I’m re-learning, too, that the happy ending, the “joyous grace” of fairy stories, according to Tolkein, does not deny or prohibit painful reality. Getting wrapped in story—and specifically in the story of a glorious homecoming that we look forward to—does not deny the pain in our world or the mundane parts of adulthood. Rather “it denies, (in the face of much evidence if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.”
So as I wash dishes and fold laundry and write, they are building blocks of my story, The Story, and part of all of our stories. Even when they feel like dirty dishwater. Even when it is cold and dark outside my window and spring is just a promise. Even then.