by Rob Field, CSW Director
As I write these words, I am waiting for God, and a dog.
Like every other spiritually-minded person, I am always waiting for God (if “God” doesn’t compute for you, please substitute some other higher power or source of transcendence). It’s not as if God never shows up in my life, but I’ve decided that my ability to perceive the divine is usually fleeting. In one moment, I can confidently say, “There’s God!” without wavering in my conviction. But that moment usually unfolds into the next, when the sense of Presence is no longer present to me.
I’ve been reflecting on this as my wife and I wait for a dog. For many weeks, we’ve been hoping to adopt a second four-legged companion after our beloved old dog crossed the “Rainbow Bridge” many months ago, leaving us and our surviving dog Zack feeling bereft. So we’ve been on Petfinder and assorted animal rescue sites, looking for a new non-human companion.
Recently, we struck gold (at least, we hoped we had). We found a young female who even looks a lot like our current dog, completely healthy, and up to date with tests, vaccinations, and medications. But there is one significant catch. She’s already been through a failed adoption, and suffered some kind of trauma before being returned to the local humane society. A wonderful couple has been fostering her since then, making some progress in getting her to gradually trust people again. But it’s been slow going. They asked: would we give her a try over Labor Day Weekend, and see if the four of us might be a match?
So here we are — with a lovely, but very skittish young dog, who wants to spend most of the day, and a good part of each night, underneath our back deck. We’re doing a lot of waiting. Like my experience of the divine, the one we’re waiting for does show up on occasion for a few hopeful moments of contact. Then, just a few moments later, she’s gone again.
Some of you know the play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. It’s considered a classic in the the existentialist-inspired “Theater of the Absurd.” In this frequently-humorous story, two men sit at a crossroads, sitting, talking, and waiting for a character named “Godot”. Who (and what) Godot is, exactly, is the subject of much discussion among the characters in the play as well as those who experience this profound and funny tale. Is Godot supposed to be a person? A politician, perhaps? Or God? The play never tells us.
While we take in the play, wondering about the mysterious Godot, we’re invited to ponder lines such as this, from the character Vladimir:
“We wait. We are bored. (He throws up his hand.) No, don’t protest, we are bored to death, there’s no denying it… A diversion comes along and what do we do? We let it go to waste. Come, let’s get to work! (He advances towards the heap, stops in his stride.) In an instant all will vanish.”
In this one set of lines, Beckett names for me a great dilemma in life: how do we make meaning in the midst of our waiting, and decide whether it’s time to act or keep waiting — for God, or a dog, or another elusive someone — who may or may not show up according to our expectations?
I have no answers, just some hunches and guesses that have served me well over the years. God usually doesn’t show up on my schedule, but is almost always surprising and delightful for the same reason. By the same token, it does no good for me to sit on my hands forever and just wait. The only thing that’s clear to me is that I need to prepare for the possibility that the One I’m looking for will finally appear. When he, she, or it does, I want to be ready. Then, it will be time to celebrate!
photo by Karolina Grabowska via Pexels