What Are You Waiting For?
I’m currently in a period of transition. It’s the summer before I start law school, and most of my friends and loved ones now live or will soon live in different cities. This time is wrought with a sometimes-chaotic blend of excitement, faith, uncertainty and a hearty dose of anxiety.
In this liminal space, I’ve been finding it difficult to nail down a prayer routine. As a student (or almost-student), summer comes with a lot of fluctuations in routine due to traveling, different work schedules and an overall slower pace of living. I can already tell you what my prayer schedule will be once I’m officially a student again, but I can’t tell you when I’ll pray before I go to bed tonight or next week.
It’s all too easy to fall into this trap. How often do we dream up plans for how we’ll serve God once we’re settled, once we’re in the next season of life, once we’re more equipped to stick to our word? My dad (a very wise man) once warned me, as I enter a more professional phase of life and mindset, of the danger of making these sorts of deals with myself: I’ll serve God once I make more money and can give to the poor with it; I’ll be a more faithful person once I’ve figured out what I’m doing with my life; I’ll start praying regularly once my workload eases up. Without elbow grease and drive, these promises slip into the realm of fantasy.
But that isn’t even the biggest problem with this mindset. When I resolve to “serve God better when ___,” what I’m really telling God is, “You can have me soon, but not just yet. I have to work a few things out first.” (Recall Augustine’s plea: “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.”)
I’m currently reading Dante’s Purgatario, a (very) long poem in which the narrator travels through Purgatory with the poet Virgil as his guide. Before the pair can enter Purgatory, they pass through an antechamber holding souls who cannot yet enter. These are the “Late-Repentant,” those who turned to God and begged for mercy at the moment of death, but who had lived as they pleased up until that desperate moment. Just as these souls made God wait during their lifetimes, now God makes them wait before they can be purified.
Whether we make God wait because we don’t believe we’re ready to be holy or because we think we’re too busy/unsettled/spiritually immature . . . it’s a bit like saying we’ll start working out once we’re a little more toned. If we wait until we “feel” ready, we’ll likely never begin, as (thankfully) our faith isn’t dictated by something as fickle as emotions, nor is it confined to our narrow understandings of our own circumstances. If we give the Lord what we can today, He will begin the work of guiding us to perfection from where we are and how we are – and if we love Him today, He will give us the grace to love Him more tomorrow, when new challenges and questions will surely arise.
So let us not be like the “would-be followers” of Jesus in Luke 9, who prefer to follow Jesus after squaring away other affairs. Rather, let us leave our nets and follow Him, whatever that move may look like and whatever it may seem to cost. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.