Waiting Worship

Today's UPI column

So There I was...

At the airport. Waiting. I was early. I had planned that. Then I became earlier as my expected person was delayed once, twice and then three times.

I ended up with eight hours of wait time.

I was able to see the blessing in it pretty quickly since it was 102 degrees outside and the airport had refrigerated air. I had the ability to purchase a good meal and a good book, and I like the airport.

It is a great place to people watch. Every type of person on every type of business passes through. The extremely elderly and newborn babes are assisted on their way. Business, commercial and personal, is pursued with determination. The entire repertoire of human drama gets replayed every hour or so, re-cast with every arriving plane.

As a bit of an empath, I have a distinct seating preference.
I stay away from the screening and departure area if I have a choice. People there are sad, leaving or being left. They are anxious and in a hurry. They are frustrated and sometimes angry at all the security nonsense.

I like waiting in the arrivals lounge. The anxiety is the good kind. It builds and builds as people wait, watching the clock and the corridor until it bursts in an explosion of joy when they see the much-anticipated one.

“MOMMY!!!!” screamed the three year old who escaped dad and got neatly around the guard and into his mother’s arms, and everybody, including the security guard, smiled.

Grandmas, babies, soldiers home from war.

Nothing stronger than the wave of relief coming off the weary young mother traveling with three under five, when she sees her parents waiting to help –
“Made it, made it, worth it already!”
The dramas are the same regardless of ethnicity or class. It’s all pretty intoxicating.

I spent a lot of time watching one young man. Twentyish, cool in a 70’s sort of way; self-possessed, long curly hair, a neat beard, dark shades. He’s wearing baggy jeans, but a clean shirt – probably his best shirt. It has buttons.

He paced, checking the time on his cell phone, checking the arrivals board way too often. He was wise enough to have discovered an important life secret. Always bring flowers to the airport. The flowers were purple daisies – dyed – poor man’s flowers, which made him more endearing.

He held the flowers like a man holds flowers. Blooms down, drooping, casual, light grip, like he was carrying a bat up to the plate. He doesn’t care about the stupid flowers.

He cares a lot about the girl.

I wait with him, wondering what she will look like. Wondering if she loves him as much as he loves her. Hoping she hasn’t missed her connection. Would she have preferred the one red rose? Hope, belief, doubt, swirling around him like a cyclone.

The wait is getting to him. He presses one hand on his heart, and blows out a deep shuddering stress-filled breath. He adjusts himself – hold on, tiger. Then his phone rings and ends his agony. She is on the ground and couldn’t walk the length of the concourse without calling him. He grins, and charges the gate just like the three year old.

She’s pretty – very pretty – and runs to meet him.

Hugs, hugs, rocking hugs, and he kisses her on the forehead.
Then he remembers the flowers. Of course she likes them.

Waiting is so holy. Anticipation is so holy. Joy is so holy.

We Quakers say that we practice “waiting worship”.

We sit, silent, waiting, expecting the present Christ to arrive.
Our meetings are sacred arrivals lounges, or they should be.
I wonder how often we experience the level and quality of anticipation and joy that you see at the airport.

Maybe we should bring flowers.

Oh, _yes_. Oh, thank you for this one!
Thanks, what a wonderful piece. I'm reading this waiting for a flight in Vienna airport - on my way home to my family - I think I'll go and buy flowers!
Thanks friends,

I love that you are reading this in an airport Phil! happy homecoming.

I realized that when Freedom Friends was very new, I used to open the door and then just pace, wondering if anybody would show up at all, and always was probably overly enthusiastic when even the regulars showed up. I thought that this anxiety was lack of faith, but now I think it was a good thing. Sometimes I still feel this when we sit silent. Will there be ministry? Will it be spirit led? I am going to start honoring that anxiety as holiness!
I can feel this holy wait through your words. Thank you.
I think this post is wonderful.

Micah Bales
When I first began to attend meeting (30 yrs ago this month) and reading Quaker stuff I ran across the phrase, "Waiting upon the Lord and each other. . ." in context of describing meeting for worship. I liked the phrase, but in practice it seems more like we were waiting for the Warricks, who often arrived late. When they got there, the meeting felt whole and ready.

I wish we (as a meeting) were more attentive that we are indeed waiting for a Who, and not merely waiting for . . . something to happen. I wonder, though, are we waiting as if for the return of an old friend or lover who brings feelings of relief, comfort, joy, all-rightness -- or for a blind date who we're meeting for the first time who we're not quite suer of?
"Waiting for the Warricks" love that!

But this is why I think the arrivals lounge thing works, because in my meeting, we've got the 'first date' people and the 'old friends' people, and the people holding up 'the sign' cause they haven't got a clue who they are looking for, and yet sometimes, miraculously we acheive "gathered" and somebody does arrive, and who we see coming down that corridor may still be different, but most of us agree that the plane came in.

this I love.
We wait longer than we have.


Timothy Travis
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