faith, Pandemic Wisdom

In Limbo

Waiting, isn’t it just the worst? I know people right now who are waiting on the results of a biopsy or on the doctor’s appointment to line out their treatment plan. I know people who are waiting 14 days to get out of Covid quarantine. I’ve personally waited with our youngest son through 2 Covid tests and although they were rapid, they sure didn’t feel rapid as I texted with him across the miles.

Our family is waiting now on the arrival of a baby boy. He’s not revealed his timeline or plan of action for being born and so we are finding him a little frustrating before we’ve even laid eyes on him. After all, there is Thanksgiving to plan for and his Dad’s football games and playoff schedule to be worked in there.

Our country and the world is waiting on a vaccine to maybe propel us out of this pandemic we are in and yet these things take time. distribution challenges, tests and trials.

Here in the U.S., we waited and waited until November 3, election day, would arrive and then we waited and waited and waited some more, all the way until the weekend. Now, even though we have some results we are still waiting for a bit more clarity before we can fully move on. None of us even knows what exactly moving on looks like either. We are living in limbo. Limbo is defined as a period of awaiting a decision or resolution.

Now we wait on the holidays too. Some have already started decorating because it seems right to bring joy and light as soon as possible. And yet, even in that, we are waiting under a dark cloud of uncertainty about how to do the holidays safely or perhaps even to decide we can’t gather, party, worship or celebrate as we have in the past.

Waiting does not bring out the best in any of us. One of my first jobs was as a hostess at a restaurant. I learned then, the true nature of hangry, waiting people. Actually, maybe it was good preparation for ministry because much of the Christian life is about waiting. I still just wish people wouldn’t get so angry at the hostess/pastor.

Theologian Richard Rohr writes about waiting. He reminds us of the image outside the camp which occurs often in the Hebrew Bible. It was that habit our foremothers and forefathers had of staying just outside of the place where others are. It is the act of doing something differently than what others are doing.

As we wait in this season, it is easy to camp where those who reinforce our own beliefs hang out. It is easy to vilify the “other” campers. It’s easy to hang out with our familiar Republicans or Democrats or our comfortable Christian friends on whichever end of the spectrum we are on. But what if the Holy One is on the move, out in front of us? What if a better place to wait is just outside those well formed camps?

In the days since the election I’ve seen both sides continuing to hate, gloat and vilify one another. Clearly the pain is deep everywhere. Rohr writes, In our ugly and injurious present political climate, it has become all too easy to justify fear-filled and hateful thoughts, words and actions in defense against the “other” side. We project our anxiety elsewhere and misdiagnose the real problem (the real evil)….Most of us do not see things as they are; we see things as we are. (Richard Rohr, 11/2/2020, Email devotion: Letters from Outside The Camp)

How do you survive the waiting? How do you steel yourself against anxiety, fear and even hate while in limbo? He suggests we ask God to help us with surrender, with detachment. We ask God to help us with letting go of that part of ourselves that would point fingers, hate and blame others and instead fill our heads, hearts and hands with hope. Hope forces our eyes up.

In every single hard season of my life, my spiritual task was the same, it was about letting go. I had to let go of my plans, my will, my need to know and control the future. I had to letting go of being right. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and I still work on it every day.

Right now we live in limbo…will you camp in those well worn, comfortable camps of hate and anger or will you move your tent to a different place on the fringes, where God’s Spirit dwells? Will your tent be filled with love, grace and Mystery or something else?

God, we live in limbo right now. Take us, as we wait, outside the camp. Change us. Fill us with hope. Yes, even now. Amen

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor, Mosa to Keller, Pace and one slowly on the way. Go to to read her other blogs, see upcoming events and to learn more about the weekly Jesus Calling Prayer Call she co-hosts live on Tuesdays at 7 a.m. CST.

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