When Things Take Too Long
“Things take the time they take. Don’t worry.” - Mary Oliver
I am impatient. I suppose this is partly my personality and partly a result of living in an era of microwaveable, uploadable, instant-everything.
At my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary (many many years ago) my Oma and Opa had to sit for pictures with everyone: this group and that group, this side of the family, the other side of the family, the kids, their spouses, the grand-kids. As the grandkids gathered, an unruly and large crew of us, Opa grew fed up with the pictures and announced as such. Someone whispered to him that patience was a virtue. “I know,” he declared, “patience is a virtue. That does not mean I have to have it.”
So perhaps my lack of patience is folded into my DNA. All I know is that I am not great at waiting, easily irritated at a page that takes too long to load or when my children (and/or husband) tell me one million unimportant details before getting to the point of their story.
We are trying to renovate (read gut and basically start fresh while salvaging as much history as possible) a large building which will eventually be a community space, our home, and some living space for youth from the neighborhood. This process is literally taking forever. I know these things take time, we have renovated (gutted and started over) our current house. But that whole process took 9 months start-to-finish and we signed a contract on this new space coming up on a year ago. So I’m feeling impatient and grouchy about how long it’s taking. I am trying to trust God’s timing while simultaneously making sure He knows how I feel about the length of this process.
Basically, I am trying to give you a building update and here it is: there is no update. Every time it rains, I cringe as I picture the water running through the holes in the ceiling all the way down to the floor. I am equal parts nervous about this move and anxious to make it.
When we met with the contractors and architects at the building this morning (progress!), a neighbor stopped his car outside the space and yelled at us to leave. He used words I have rarely had directed towards me about the color of my skin and the hatred flashed in his eyes. I wanted to defend myself, to explain, to introduce myself, to run away. My heart raced as he peeled off as the light changed colors, I felt embarrassed and sad, defensive. And I wondered, not for the first time, if perhaps I am not doing much good here at all. If my privilege has yet again blinded me to the ways I will always harm, always take. If perhaps we should forget the whole endeavor.
I grow occasionally weary of living and loving in the ways we have chosen, which more often than not leave us with a broken heart. But we have one life and we will spend it the way we have found the most pain but also the most joy. Because the margins are where we meet Jesus, in the truths that remind us to listen more than we talk. To come alongside rather than save. To make a new space and a fresh start, even though it is hard slow work that takes longer and requires more from us than we thought we had to give. Because this is how we land on the gift at the end of ourselves.
“Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?” - Mary Oliver