Thursday, December 4, 2008

(Not) Advent: Rilke on Waiting

Okay, so this isn't exactly either Advent-related or even Christian-related, for that matter. But in view of the Bonhoeffer quote from my previous post, I thought I'd add this quote which I've always taken to heart. It's from the early twentieth-century German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, in his Letters to a Young Poet (letter 4, July 16, 1903).

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Since the time an education professor of mine at Michigan State first shared this with us, I've found a bit of comfort in this. Questions and uncertainty and waiting are okay, Rilke exhorts us. Moreover, they're something to be lived through, involved in, and borne with patience. In my own life, I think that it has been times of uncertainty, longing, and wonder--those liminal moments when I stand on the threshold of a significant decision and must take a step in one direction or another--when I most live in fear-of-the-Lord. And that's when I feel the most alive.


Ted M. Gossard said...

Great thoughts, Andrew, (and thanks for introducing me to that poet!) and I most certainly concur both in my own experience, and now- thinking. This reminds me of the wonder and surprise that comes from following the way in Jesus and in the fear of God as you so well say- I mean as expressed in C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia." Things unfold in God's time and over time, God making all things beautiful in their time. And even if we haven't arrived to that, I find that the Lord can give me just the sense and joy of that as I live in the quagmire of today.

I do love the thought about loving the questions, and willingly living in uncertainty and wonder- does remind one of Job. We too easily ruin it (I have again and again, I'm sure) by thinking and acting otherwise. But to live in that, and then find ourselves living out the answer, or in it, or at least having a sense in that direction. Quite profound and when I am not willing to walk in faith in that way, but want sight, I really end up losing out. But I think that's one aspect the Lord is working into my life, or wants to work in it.

Thanks for this to keep pondering and chewing on.

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

that's what walking by faith is all about - yes?