“Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life,” Simone Weil famously said, a quote I have used several times in my writings. But I wonder if she would be satisfied with this translation. In her “Spiritual Autobiography,” a letter to a Roman Catholic priest, she declares that the Greek word for “steadfastness” is “more beautiful” than the Latin word for patience, derived from the word for suffering. And one of my favorite biblical descriptions of God highlights his/her/their “steadfast love.”
Perhaps “waiting steadfast* in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life” is a better rendering of her insight. “Steadfast in expectation” sounds like “anticipation” to me.
I stretch this quote because of an “aha” I’ve recently experienced. God is a God of anticipation for me right now—anticipation of the end of the pandemic, but also anticipation of the end of my life.
We see this God of anticipation in our biblical tradition.
“I will be what I will be,” Moses hears from the blazing wilderness shrub as Yahweh commissions him to deliver a message to Pharaoh to “let my people go.”
“Behold I am doing a new thing,” Yahweh says through Isaiah.
“Follow me,” Jesus invited.
“I have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, you will be guided into all the truth,” Jesus told his disciples at the Last Supper. “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there you may be also.”
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth,” Jesus said in his final parting.
“I saw a new heaven and a new earth,” the mystic John testified of God’s future. “See, the home of God is among mortals.”
The kingdom or commonwealth of God is even now revealing itself to us. I witness a parallel in the Tao of Taoism and the “thin places” between heaven and earth in Celtic spirituality.
Recently I was quite taken with an ending of a prayer of an MCC pastor and leader that went something like this, “in the names of how you have been experienced in the past and the names of how you will be experienced in the future.”
Anticipation lifts us up. Etty Hillesum, who died at Auschwitz, wrote in her diary that she thought of God as her best self. My own experience is that simply the thought of God lifts me to my better self.
Undoubtedly a spin from my Process theology view—as I reflect on the universe, I see a process that anticipates life, that anticipates sentient beings who make the universe aware of its very existence, how it came to be, its possible meanings, as well as its hope for deliverance from its own destructive elements, whether viral as in a pandemic, or human when we disregard one another and our environment.
That process is how I am thinking of God in these difficult days.
*I chose not to use the seemingly more appropriate word “steadfastly” because it applies to the following phrase “in expectation” rather than the previous word “waiting.”
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