Shay Craig: What are you waiting for?
When I was in seminary, just starting out and completely insecure in my journey toward priesthood, I was assigned by my priest to preach at the Wednesday noon service. It was a small service, attended by a handful of deeply faithful, but mostly profoundly deaf individuals (which was a mercy, as I was very new to preaching).
I took that assignment very seriously. I studied, wrote, and practiced those five-minute sermons with as much zeal as I now prepare the Big Kahuna Easter Sermon. And every week, no matter how confident I was in the sermon, no matter how comfortable with my role in the service, I would stand in the hallway before going in and shake in my boots. On one occasion, I was shaking so hard that the cross on my chest rattled against the buttons on my cassock. The priest who was presiding over the service laughed out loud at my trepidation. And then she said, “What are you waiting for?”
Not the way we usually say it. Not like “Get out of the way” or “Move it along, babe,” but asking in genuine interest. “What are you waiting for?”
“God has called you,” she was saying. “I see it. Other people see it. You feel it. This pulpit is yours today, this is the scripture you’ve been given, these are the people who have come to hear it. God has lined all this up for you. What, exactly, are you waiting for?”
It is my firm belief that God places a “calling” on each and every one of us. For some of us, it is world changing: curing polio, writing a breathtaking concerto, inventing the combustion engine. For others is it seemingly small: getting this troubled young man through high school; holding onto this land for one more generation; offering someone hope — a perfect stranger — when the person was about to lose it.
At first glance, you may say, “Not me. I don’t have a call on my life. I don’t even know what she is talking about.” But, stop and think. Have you ever had a moment when someone said something to you that seemed strange or insignificant at the time, but now you realize that it was God speaking to you in that moment?
That person, whether they were a stranger or an intimate friend. Whether they believed in God or not, was the instrument of God’s voice, speaking to you about the potential, the grace, the “calling” that God has placed in you.
God no longer speaks from the heavens (which is probably good; that would be alarming). There are no burning bushes or talking donkeys (also good, also alarming). God speaks to us through circumstances and through people. And if you give it some thought, I bet you can think of someone whom God used to speak to you.
And the message was, “You know what you’re called to do. I’ve placed the fire in your belly, I’ve opened the doors and put the people in front of you, and now I’ve spoken to you through this person before you. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?”
Living into the dreams that God has placed in us is not a whether, it's a when. And when is now. We can’t wait for confidence; it may only come afterward. We can’t wait for permission; frankly, not much of God’s work in the world would get done if it waited for permission. And if you were waiting to get God’s affirmation, well, there it is in the eyes of the person before you, “What are you waiting for?”
The assignment for these essays this month is to describe a person who was “like a spiritual mother figure.” I invite you to go looking in your life for the person who nurtures in you the still small voice of God. The person who speaks the truth you are yearning for and trying to avoid. The person who knows that you already know and looks you in the eye and says, “What, exactly, are you waiting for?”
A few weeks ago, on Easter Sunday, I stood at the back of the sanctuary in St. Michael’s Episcopal Church and listened to the choir and organ fill the space with joy. I watched in amazement as the first light of Easter was carried into the room. I felt the relief, elation and humility of the fact of the resurrected Christ . . . and I got incredibly nervous.
And from somewhere — maybe from heaven — the Rev. Jeanne Leinbach’s voice rang in my ears, giving me the little push forward that I needed to walk into the calling God has placed in my life. She was saying, “What, exactly, are you waiting for?”
The Rev. Canon Shay Craig is the Vicar of St. Michael’s and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Churches in Hays.