Holly W. Whitcomb is a United Church of Christ minister, the director of Kettlewood Retreats, and a frequently traveler to churches, retreat houses, and conferences around the country. She is the author of Feasting With God: Adventures in Table Spirituality and Practicing Your Path: A Book of Retreats for an Intentional Life.
In this well-done resource, Whitcomb explores the seven spiritual gifts of waiting: patience, loss of control, living in the present, compassion, gratitude, humility and trust in God. But to look at waiting in this way is to go against the cultural grain. We have been brainwashed by the media to believe that our desires can be fulfilled instantly. The pragmatism of our can-do philosophy exalts action over contemplation. We are convinced that we can fix anything and everything, if we just set our minds to it.
But the problem is that not everything can be salvaged or saved. The more we push against the river, the more we come up against the mystery that will not give way to our egotism.
We like the idea of seeing "waiting" as a spiritual teacher. This is especially important for impatient people who are ill at ease with standing in lines or waiting for some important news. Whitcomb quotes the Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who advised: "trust in the slow work of God." This was what the Israelites did during their long sojourn in the wilderness and what Christians must do during the Advent season. But it is difficult to stop trying to control things and just relax into the grace of God.
Closely connected with waiting is worry: "The longer I live, the more I believe that worry is an utterly unprofitable and ineffective condition. Yet worry is a pervasive condition especially when we are waiting for something important, such as a test result, a mortgage approval, a job decision, news about a loved one. The truth is, worry never teaches us anything useful. When we worry we disempower ourselves and lessen our trust in God. When we worry, our anxiety mounts as we manipulate everyone around us to make room for our worry and to accommodate our anxiety."
Whitcomb challenges us to combat this nettlesome brand of anxiety by living in the present moment. She concludes her meditation on the spiritual discipline of waiting with a fine probe of humility, which she sees as leading to love, to honoring others, to living without judgment, and to making honest assessments. This paperback also contains an extensive course outline on how to use this book with a group.