Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12 (NIV)
The air is heavy with waiting. This is the hot breathless time of soaring summer temperatures, Bermuda highs, and killer humidity. It is a still time, when no breezes blow, no rain falls, and the sun beats down with its highest intensity. You can almost hear the plants growing, and you see daily development in the garden. But it is too uncomfortable to stay out very long. The minute you walk into the outdoors, your clothing sticks to you, clinging to a body that is instantly covered with sweat. In this weather, only the bugs seem happy and comfortable.
This is the time of waiting. You may be a gardener waiting for the plants to produce. Or you may be cultivating your own life, waiting for projects to come to fruition and dreams to come true. There comes a season in every life where the heat is on and all you can do is wait.
Serenity in Seasons of Waiting
Sometimes it just takes waiting for the right timing. And during the season of high heat, timing is often not in your favor. You have to sweat it out. Do you have a project you’ve been working on that suddenly seems blocked or stopped? Are you waiting on someone else’s necessary decision, only to find out they’re on summer vacation and won’t be back until next week? Do processes feel like they’re being dragged out and results few and far between? Does your spiritual life feel meaningless, your prayer closet like a sauna, and a breath of fresh air seem as far away as a dream? Welcome to the dog days of the summer heat wave.
St. John of the Cross talked about the dark night of the soul. Other spiritual masters talk about the silence of the senses. The humidity of a soul sweating out the work of time and the timing of the Creator is like a heat wave, deadening the senses into numb misery. It seems like an endless spiritual desert. Yet it is in the desert that saints and monks have purified their souls and found spiritual insight and clarity. If you are in a season of difficult waiting, perhaps God is developing the fruit of the Spirit in you. Just as a sweat breaks a fever and releases toxins, so this travail of the soul and body could be releasing impurities that keep you from spiritual health and well being.
Trust the Process
A time of waiting is part of life’s process and there is no way to avoid it, no shortcut around it. We have three possible responses: we can fight it, we can whine about it, or we can accept it as a necessary time for spiritual development.
Sometimes in the early stages of a heat wave, we fight it. Angry that our vacation plans don’t include avoiding this discomfort and that circumstances demand our presence in this unpleasant weather, we are anxious, frustrated, and trying to figure a way out—any way out, at any price, as soon as possible. When we realize there is no way out and that we have to just slog through the heat, we grumble and complain. But whining can make the atmosphere even more unpleasant than the muggy humidity of waiting. We make the hard times harder with a negative attitude.
Then there is the way of acceptance. Sooner or later we come to the time when we must make this choice: will we accept the circumstance, adapt to the situation, and wait out God’s timing? If we choose the way of acceptance, there is no guarantee that the heat will lessen or that the weather will change any sooner. What we do discover, however, is that we can cope with this waiting in the heat, perhaps even learn from it.
Accepting What Is
Here in the South, you learn to hibernate in the heat and choose your times of emergence into the outdoors wisely. You turn up the air conditioner during the day, wait till evening or early morning to do your hard work, drink plenty of water, take it easy during the hottest part of the day, and wear comfortable clothes you can sweat into. You don’t just have to hibernate in the refrigerated indoors, however. You can also embrace the heat and immerse yourself in things as they are, rather than putting your energy into wishing for what isn’t. Spending time outdoors, embracing the heat, actually helps you cope, as your body adjusts to the temperatures and builds strength to endure.
In the southern summer I have learned take long early morning or twilight walks in clothes that I plan to sweat in, carrying bottled water to keep myself hydrated. I move slower and take time to look and listen to what nature is doing. There on the banks of Lake Radnor, I listen to the call of the bullfrog, watch the deer and geese feed in the green pond goo, see the waterbugs dance on the surface of the lake, making patterns like raindrops across its surface. I feel the silky warmth of the humid evening on my bare arms, become aware of the sensuousness of the misty night. I plan on cool showers when I get home and a long tall iced tea or lemonade. I eat more lightly, adapting to my body’s diminished appetite in the heat. When I am battened down in my air conditioned office, I disperse essential oils into the atmosphere to remind me of the mountains and cool breezes I long for: tree scents of cedar, spruce, juniper, pine, and fir; and herb scents of spearmint, peppermint, lavender, thyme, and marjoram. I listen to my body and take naps when possible. I allow myself to be more sluggish and respect the power of the heat and humidity. People die in these conditions when they don’t adapt or take care of themselves. And I wait, doing what work I can, but also knowing that the change in the weather is in God’s timing, not my own. I practice the difficult art of patience.
Allow Time for the Fruit to Ripen
When you are in a waiting time, it is time to let go and let God. It sounds simplistic, but there are seasons when we as creatures need to work with the rhythms of creation and wait on the timing of the Creator, whether we want to or not. Fighting it only makes the inevitable more difficult. Surrendering the ego, letting go of your own agenda, opening to a wider, wiser unfolding of events—all of this can bear fruit in the long wait of the summer heat.
The hot humid weather will eventually pass. The time of waiting will be over. You will discover that during the time of waiting, through the long hot days and humid nights, the garden was still growing and the plants were developing toward the days of harvest. The wise gardener is patient, whether he is waiting on the weather or the development of his own soul.
Words of Encouragement
The secret of waiting is the faith that the seed has been planted, that something has begun. Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it.
Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain.
James 5:6 (RSV)
I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.
Henry David Thoreau
The seed of mystery lies in muddy water.
How can I perceive this mystery?
Water becomes clear through stillness.
How can I become still?
By flowing with the stream.
Every time something difficult and challenging has happened to me it has marked the beginning of a new era in my life.
A streak of toughness combined with optimism is a good passport through life. The winners are the ones who get on with it.
Any man can work when every stroke of his hands brings down the fruit rattling from the tree… but to labor in season and out of season, under every discouragement… that requires a heroism which is transcendent.
Henry Ward Beecher
One day at a time—this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet become. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.
Ida Scott Taylor
Whenever a mind is simple, it is able to receive divine wisdom; old things pass away; it lives now and absorbs past and future into the present hour.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you let yourself be absorbed completely, if you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh
With all our philosophy, with all our grand and enhancing ideas, we cannot escape life as we live it. Star-gazers are still walking on the solid earth.
In walking, just walk. In sitting, just sit. Above all, don’t wobble.
O God, grant us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed; the courage to change what should be changed; and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.
One act of thanksgiving made when things go wrong is worth a thousand when they go well.
St. John of the Cross
Life only demands from you the strength you possess. Only one feat is possible. Not to run away.
There is a kind of release that comes directly to those who have undergone an ordeal and who know, having survived it, that they are equal to all of life’s occasions.
O Lord, thou knowest that which is best for us. Let this or that be done, as thou shalt please. Give what thou wilt, how much thou wilt, and when thou wilt.
Thomas a Kempis
Meaning, moods, the whole scale of our inner experience, finds in nature “the correspondences” through which we may know our boundless selves.
21 Free Audio Affirmations
I am excited to announce that my audio production is now happening, and I am making my first Audio Affirmations available to those who join my emailing list. There are more audio products in the making. I even created the background music with GarageBand loops. What fun! Two minutes of instant inspiration will arrive in your email inbox every day for 21 days, starting the moment you sign up.
Here is a link so you can listen to sample Audio Affirmation: