Waiting, Leaping and Losing II
Bill Long 11/4/05
One More Song
Continuing, then, from the previous essay with the other song that has been on my mind. One web site says it was was written by Evangelical/Country song writer Stuart Hamblen in 1953, but his "Hall of Fame" website says nothing about this song. So, I will leave it there. The song is derived from Is. 40:31 and goes as follows:
"Those who wait upon the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings as eagles.
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Teach me Lord, teach me Lord, to wait."
Kenny Rogers and Stuart Hamblen
What are these two songs trying to tell me? Kenny Rogers says that you have to know when to "play your cards," and Stuart Hamblen says pretty much the same thing, though he couches it in biblical language taken from Is. 40. It is interesting how Is. 40 is such a rich passage that it inspires variant images. Eric Liddell, in Chariots of Fire, "preached" on this Isaiah passage to the Reformed Church of Scotland in Paris during the 1924 Olympics. But the pictures in the background were of "young men fainting and growing weary" (an earlier verse in Is. 40) in contrast to the strength (implied) of the one who waited (Eric Liddell, who would run in and win the 100 meters).
But I realized this morning why The Gambler and Those who Wait have been on my mind. I have been singularly unable, throughout my life, to know when to leap and to know what to leap into or towards. As a result, I have probably leaped too early, or too late, and missed the train (or boat). I have not known what is worthy of my sole attention and when to have jumped on it. Permit me to reflect on this for another minute.
Autobiography and Timing
What should have been the target of my "leap" when the waiting is over? When I was a doctoral student at Brown, fired with enthusiasm for mastering all I could of the history of religions and of the development of earliest Christianity, I was never sure of my "target." Oh, I had an immediate vocational goal--to get some kind of teaching position someplace in higher education. That was the purpose of my pursuing a doctoral degree. You teach. But during my year in Tuebingen, courtesy of the German government, I lost my sense that teaching biblical studies would be the focus of my life. Why? Well, I got into biblical studies originally because it was THE BIBLE after all, and I should have been able to get "answers for living" from the text. That is what fueled my mammoth appetite for the Bible in the early 1970s. But as I got further and further in the field of Biblical studies, I realized that it was a game that stood on its own, without any interest in making connections between then and now. Surely you could have some interests in the continuing validity of the text, but you had to spend all of your life reading ancient texts, so it seemed, before you could utter one competent sentence of what the Bible might mean for today. This discouraged me, even though I managed to secure a rather prize position in the teaching of religion for several years.
Once I abandoned my goal of being a "great" biblical scholar, because I no longer saw the point, I didn't know where to leap at all. Should it be into politics? College administration? General teaching in religion? Should I change my field? Work for the denomination? Focus on "public service?" I was completely adrift in the 1980s as I relentlessly plunged into more and more things without the slightest idea of what I was doing. I had cards, so to speak, but I didn't know when to fold 'em or hold 'em. I wasn't sure what it was I was looking for. And I was either too fearful or ignorant to ask anyone for help. And, even if I had the skill or ability to ask someone, I probably wouldn't have listened to what they said. Or, even if I had listened to what they said I probably wouldn't have known how to wait for what I wanted, because I wasn't sure what I wanted.
Well, I could tell more stories about the 90s and early 00s, but let's end this essay by talking about 2005. I have arguably found a clearer direction--writing, though not for publication in "refereed journals--but I still don't really know which directions to head. Should I apply for X job? or Y grant? Should I go to Z luncheon where "funding opportunities" will be discussed? For what should I "wait"? Will the next direction in life emerge out of the present one with some clarity? When should I "leap?" Should I try to "build up" my retirement portfolio by cobbling together various job possibilities? Or, should I just spend my days and nights reading and writing and thinking and putting my thoughts "out there" and doing so until the money "runs out?" The whole notion of setting goals, going toward them, and evaluating life based on achievement of goals sounds so hollow to me now, but maybe that is because I never learned how to leap and never learned how to wait. But for now, I am "waiting," though working very hard in my waiting. I am not sure what I am waiting for. Maybe Godot. But waiting I am. In the mean time, however, I am having lots of nice conversations with people about life and what they are up to. Things could be a lot worse. But, for now, I will wait and then try to listen to myself to see if I can discern anything that should make we want to "leap."
Then, after I have waited for a good long time, I may or may not start my "Salem Metaphysical and Autobiographical Club." Stay tuned.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long