As a kid, I never had earaches or ear infections. In the past year I’ve had two. So yesterday when my ear started throbbing and swelling shut yet again, I did what any sane person would do on a day when the doctor’s office was closed. I took a clove of garlic, peeled it, smooshed it a little, soaked it in olive oil, and stuck it in my ear. Between the soothing sensation of the oil and the burn of the garlic juices, something beneficial must have been happening. Thank goodness for kitchen-pantry healers on the web.
Now I’m not saying the earache went away nor am I recommending this aromatic procedure, but at least I was doing something. The wait until my doctor’s appointment on Monday seemed interminable. I wanted a remedy and I wanted it fast. But WAIT. Aren’t there all kinds of encouragements in the Bible for waiting?: “but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NRSV)
My struggle between waiting and acting is ongoing. Waiting can be disastrous, but so can acting. Do I speak when I have an unsolicited solution to other people’s problems or keep my mouth shut and wait until they find their own way? Do I rush into a new job because I’m afraid another one will never come along or do I wait until a call is clear? Do I wait to replace the washer until it completely self-destructs or buy a new one on sale for a huge savings now? Do I try some quick, crackpot remedy for an earache or wait for a more official cure later? I don’t know. I usually only know in retrospect whether or not I’ve acted or waited well.
In most incidents my urgency to get a quick fix must seem foolish to the timeless eyes of God. But there are times when acting or waiting is crucial. I pray my spiritual ears will be open enough to listen to whichever option the “still small voice” of God might be encouraging me to do.
Outward praise for God is not an easy practice for me. Most of my praise stays quietly locked in the thoughts and prayers in my head. In corporate worship, it comes out of my mouth in the spoken words of rote prayers and prescribed liturgy. I describe my praise as tamed and house-broken. Even when I feel the urge for some more visceral, full-bodied expression, I feel my inner trainer cry, “Sit, down, stay.” My arms rarely leave their vertical hangdown place at the side of my body.
Liturgical dance has provided one outlet for including my body in praise, but it has usually been planned and choreographed. I’m embarrassed by spontaneous bursts of gratitude and adoration that involve my arms leaving my side and flying above my head. It seems somehow unseemly or irrational to allow my soul stuff to be so naked.
Last week on the magnificent, rugged coast of Maine looking over the Atlantic Ocean, I felt one of those unbound, uncontrollable moments of praise creeping from my heart into my shoulders and rushing through my arms and fingers. I wish I could say I didn’t care what the three other people standing with me thought about my far flung arms. But I did. As much as I want to be a reckless lover of God, I don’t really want other people to know it. I covered up my uncomfortable posture by asking my husband to take a picture of me standing on the rocks.
I think I owe God an apology. “Forgive me, God, for being so stingy and so guarded with my emotions for you.” When I look at this picture, I know what I was feeling. When I look at the picture, the word orant comes to mind. An orant, according to Dictionary.com, is “a representation of a female figure, with outstretched arms and palms up in a gesture of prayer, in ancient and early Christian art.” I bet the early orants could have cared less what other people thought about their outstretched arms and their showy love of God.
I’ve been in Maine for the past week. There is almost more beauty here than I can bear. Between the ocean, the flowers, the sea grasses, the sailing schooners, the lobsters and oysters, and the color of the leaves, I’m in a chronic state of awe and “OH!” When I see the shimmery golds and reds of the autumn leaves, I think, “This is how I imagine the Holy Spirit.”
So I decided to use that image as a starting point for prayer. The colors on the trees make me think of tongues of flame and the fiery spirit of Pentecost. I want to be swept away by that Spirit. I also want to commit the people I’m praying for to the transforming power of that Spirit.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV)