As I pulled up to the booth at Tsawwassen the sign changed: ‘Victoria – 2 sailing wait.’ My heart sank. I was planning to do so much, and I had appointments I wanted to keep, and it was early morning on a Monday. What business did so many people have coming to my beautiful island at that time, anyway?
So I, and Cosmo my tiny dog who looks like an ewok, settled down for a long wait at the terminal, with me gently grumbling to myself about having to wait, and thinking about all that wasted time. (On the inside, I am English after all).
As it turned out it was a good time. I got to prepare a column for Faith Forum before the deadline wooshed by; I grabbed a coffee; walked with the dog; listened to a couple of podcasts; and ended up feeling quite refreshed, having previously had two or three weeks of constant activity. My star team in the office at St John’s rearranged my earlier appointment, and upon my return I made it the visit just a little later than arranged and the couple I visited were wonderfully gracious. I also won a coffee when I rolled up the rim – hooray!
But this enforced waiting made me realise how impatient I have become in the past few years. I have become used to instant gratification – shopping whenever I feel like it; good coffee almost immediately; high speed access to the internet; movies and TV on demand; instant messaging - the list goes on. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into one of those rants which us oldies do - “I remember when to get onto the internet we had to give three weeks-notice and have a team of electronic hamsters running through the wires.” (or at least that’s how it sounded). I just realised I’m not used to waiting for things like I used to.
I’m reminded of a book by Christian writer John Ortberg which talks about the ancient practices of ‘Spiritual Disciplines’. The book is much better than its self-help style title suggests - The Life You’ve Always Wanted. I’m reminded of it for two reasons. One is that discipline is not a popular theme it seems. Perhaps it’s tied up with the way we have become used to getting much of what we want on demand. Not that these things are bad in themselves, but that the discipline of waiting for something, longing for it, and appreciating it even more, is less apparent.
Discipline – careful, thoughtful, self-control – does take effort, and if you’re anything like me, effort is hard, particularly in the busy, demanding lives we lead. But learning discipline – stilling our minds and hearts from the demanding clamour of the world around, saying “no” to the quick fix or the easy answer – is deeply rewarding in a spiritual journey. Jesus called his friends ‘Disciples’ as they voluntarily subjected themselves to the Discipline of his way of love and service, and discipleship is something our Anglican Bishop, and the wider Church, is particularly calling Christians to in our ongoing journey.
The second reason is that within the traditional ‘Spiritual Disciplines’ of the Church there is one that stands out for me – the discipline of ‘slowing’; taking our time, not being first in the line-up or fastest on the highway; enjoying the moment; savouring the view; smelling the flowers. It strikes me that my enforced waiting might have been a gift to see again the value of discipline, patience, and learning to make the most of waiting.
The Ven. Alastair McCollum is Rector of St. John the Divine Anglican Church in Victoria and Archdeacon, Diocese of Islands and Inlets.He has a passion for the Gospel, motorbikes and bike culture, worship, philosophy, theology, guitars, single malt whisky, real ale, cinema and all things French. You can find Alastair at the church website: www.stjohnthedivine.bc.ca and on his blog: fracme.blogspot.ca
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* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, March 30th 2019