In conflict transformation work, there can be wisdom in waiting.
There have been two recent referrals to Conflict Transformation Ministries where we have decided to wait. In one instance, I advised the church leaders to do nothing other than wait. In the second instance, the church leaders decided to wait. In both cases, waiting was the most faithful response. To wait on God’s perfect timing. To wait for the Holy Spirit to show us when or if the congregation is ready for more intervention. To wait for conflict transformation ministers to be available. We can do violence to a congregation if we take action before souls are ready. We do well to keep the first General Rule, “Do not harm,” forefront in our minds when we consider conflict transformation interventions.
Of course, there are situations that require immediate action. We cannot wait when abuse, bullying, criminality, misconduct, and natural disaster happen. We cannot risk others’ safety and we must protect the vulnerable.
Other situations, however, can tolerate waiting. Waiting peacefully and faithfully requires managing anxiety. What sorts of anxious thoughts are swirling through our minds when we contemplate waiting? For me, my anxieties often focus around what other people think of me, particularly about my performance. I aim for competence, efficiency, and compassion. I want to assess situations carefully and faithfully. When I begin to feel extremely anxious, my body reacts. I can feel the tension in my left neck, shoulder, and torso. I am left-handed and the left has always been my “doing” side. I write with my left hand. I cradled my baby with my left arm. I attempt to get a tennis ball over the net with a racket in held my left hand.
Managing anxiety has its challenges. I can’t say that I always manage successfully, but, I have found some things that help. Walking my dog, praying (often while walking my dog!), talking to trusted friends & colleagues, and indulging in a little distraction can help me get out of my head and calm my body. Crying is helpful, particularly now as I grieve the death of my mother. My mother died on November 3rd of Alzheimer’s Disease. I have found her death surprisingly difficult. Even though I knew that her death would bring her final healing by Jesus, her Lord and Savior, I was not ready.
Church people are in a poignant season of waiting. In Advent, we tell again the stories of waiting. Waiting for the angel to come to Mary and tell her that she will carry in her womb the child of the Most High. Waiting for the baby who shall be named “Jesus” to be born. Waiting for the angels to sing and the shepherds to arrive and the wise ones from the East to make their star-led journey. Perhaps most importantly, we are waiting for Jesus to come again. Advent is not just about ticking off the days until December 25th. Advent is about expecting Jesus to come in glory to enact the ultimate full healing of Creation.
In the meantime, we wait. There can be wisdom in waiting.