This has been a season of waiting for me. In the book of Leanne, waiting produces metaphors.
I’m not good at waiting. I’m not good at it at all. Over the last few years I’ve taught some beginning piano and theory lessons, and one of the things that beginners find surprisingly difficult is not the complicated rhythms or fast passages, but sustained notes and rests. They tend to want to skip over them. Those are the places where beginners mess up or get lost.
When I was a high school student, I remember hearing about the pitfalls of rests from both my band director and my minister of music. They both said the same thing: Silence can be even more powerful than sound if it’s observed correctly. They taught me that by “playing” the rests properly, the sound is even more beautiful by contrast.
That has certainly held true for me this year. I haven’t been without a job for more than two weeks since I was young. I never imagined that it would take me a year to find a job. I still don’t know how I have managed to keep my home, honestly. I should have run out of money months ago. But that was another blog…
As the weeks turned into months, though, I haven’t fallen into a depression. I haven’t gotten lost in this rest. I’ve found that the “silence” of my situation has been more refreshing than I ever imagined. I live in my hometown, and I have been back here for almost 15 years, but for the past 5 years, the noise and commotion of my job kept me sequestered to one campus more than 70 hours a week. I lost touch with my friends who live here. I all but disconnected from my church family. (I thank God that they did not disconnect from me!) As these unemployed months have rolled on, I’ve had the time to rebuild relationships. The silence of my unemployment has allowed me to re-establish the rhythm of my life again, and some of the old melodies are coming back to me.
But if I may stop milking that metaphor and switch horses in mid-stream…
A few days ago I was talking to a friend the agony and disappointment of having to wait. People wait for a lot of things—jobs, spouses, children, and even the end of bad situations. We pray for these things, and then we are disappointed because they don’t happen in what we think is a reasonable time. The time frames that we set come and go. For instance, I didn’t have a job by the time the new school year started, and I knew there was little chance of getting a job after August. One of the things I learned in musical theatre is that more than 3 seconds of silence between scenes makes the audience restless; they feel that something is wrong. So, for our purposes here, once that reasonable time has become unreasonable, the music metaphor falls apart.
Something about my conversation with my friend took me back to gardening. (This seemed entirely appropriate, if you know anything about my life. I came to gardening when I failed at music, and gardening somehow allowed me to go back to music. Who could have planned that?)
I live in a fairly lush area of the mid- to lower-South, and my town has its share of affluent residents. This means that the yards are landscaped. We have hardwood trees, we have heat-resistant turf, and we have ornamental shrubbery. In other words, we have plants that go dormant in the winter. Our winters are cold enough that we have differences in the seasons, and our plants take advantage of that.
When the plants start to go dormant in the fall, they drop their leaves. That means that they’re not as attractive, but it also means that they have no means of photosynthesis. That’s okay, though. If they have no leaves, then they don’t have to spend that energy on keeping those leaves healthy. The plant puts all its effort into growing its roots instead.
What does that mean? For the trees, it means that when the winter breaks into a stormy spring (the wind is rattling my windows even as I type this) the trees will have the strength underground to hold on. When the spring heats up into summer, the deep roots will tap into cooler, moister ground underneath the dry, baking topsoil, allowing the plants to survive and thrive instead of wilting or even stressing the plant. Not only does a stressed plant look worse, it is more susceptible to infestation and disease. A plant that has enough “rest” and conditions that help it to develop a good root system will survive the hard times and it will bloom and grow.
I thought of this when I talked to my friend about why she is having to wait on the desire of her heart, while I endure my own unfulfilled desires. It seems like winter is never going to end for us. Not only are the blooms gone from our lives in some ways, but our very leaves, too—the part that is supposed to give us strength. Adding insult to injury, it leaves our branches bare and exposed.
But maybe, just maybe, this time is allowing us to reach deeper than we ever thought we could. Maybe, when the storms come, we will be able to hold on, and maybe even shelter those around us. Maybe this is what will allow us to be stronger, healthier, and even more productive (and gorgeous) later on.
And fair weather will come again. The silence will end. And the sight and sound of it may just be all the more beautiful because of the waiting.