I used to sit in the garden next to my college chapel. The quiet seclusion of the chapel garden was the perfect place to read or pray or kiss…
What else do college students do?
Oh yes, sometimes we would dip our feet in the fountain, reach down to collect the pennies at the bottom, twirl around and try not to get the bottom of your skirt wet.
Other times I’d lie on the grass and stare at the clouds, just daring the ants to crawl up my arms.
I spent hours each week in this garden. I cried there, tears of joy, tears of pleading, tears of bewilderment over my future. And I napped.
But what I did most often was wait.
I would be reading, yes, or even praying, but inwardly I was waiting to hear footsteps along the brick pathway. I would glance up from my book, or my prayer, anxious for the someone I was waiting for to walk through the open gate.
I don’t know how many hours I spent like that. But this weekend I went back to my college campus for the first time in three years. And on Sunday morning, I went to sit in the garden, taking off my sandals to dip my feet in the water.
It was so freeing not to be waiting for anyone. I cried a little at the memory. I prayed a little, adding my current prayers to all of my old ones that seemed to still be hanging around the place. Eventually my prayers and tears gave way to the revelation that I had missed during those years in college:
I didn’t need to pause in prayer or study, waiting for someone to come.
I could be content by myself.
I could be happy with others, yes, but I could always be content alone. Patient.
Waiting for myself. Waiting for God.
Because if God was there, and I was there, then we were all in the right place.
Entering the Chapel Garden was a small experience of the going-back-in-place-but-not-in-time that is to be my post-seminary life. One week from now, I will be moving back to old territory. I’ll be re-entering the county where I graduated from high school.
I’ll be back in a place that I knew well, a town where I’ve read and prayed and kissed and talked. But I won’t be back in time. Most of my old friends have left. They’ve moved on — new jobs, new lovers, new churches, new children even.
It makes me nervous. I want to raise my head up, see who’s coming, wait for familiar footsteps.
But this time I know that I don’t need to wait, distracted from my vocational call because I’m expecting old voices, allowing others to define me, or finding myself discontented with spending time alone.
Because this time, I know that if God’s there, and I’m there, then all’s as it should be:
No need to wait.