Here are three times when the ability to linger has helped me be more fully present for myself and others.
1. Christmas Eve - I was asked to give the sermon for the family services at church. We wanted to try something more interactive that combined both the children's sermon and the regular sermon into one experience. As I moved through the sermon, families opened envelopes containing objects that helped illustrate the story. At the first service there was a murmur that ran through the sanctuary the whole time. At the larger service it was a rising din that could not be contained: the excitement of opening the envelopes and sharing the discovery of what was inside with each other. I took these moments to pause and watch. It was great!
I saw relief on many parents' faces because they did not have to shush their little children the whole time. I saw children ready to learn what the newly opened object meant to the story. I saw grandparents happy to see their grandchildren welcomed and included in church.
It could have been totally stressful for me but all I felt was gratitude to linger in the abundant joy of these families.
2. Kayaking in Alaska - To celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, my parents brought their family on a cruise to Alaska. It was a wonderful time with family. One of my most peaceful moments was kayaking in a protected bay. We were far away from both the tourist and local water traffic. It was quiet and still except for the sounds of the water and wildlife. My guide was gracious and let me paddle slowly (if at all) at times. He could tell I was soaking in every moment of this beautiful and rugged landscape.
This is what I imagined when I chose the word "linger". I hoped I would have quiet and peaceful moments like these. I had many in 2014 but this one stands out.
3. The death of a colleague - In August, the Parish Nurse at my church died suddenly. She had been on staff caring for people for 20 years. (And an active member of the church longer than that.) She and I worked together for 15 years. This happened at a time of the year when activity increases exponentially. Everyone is gearing up for the fall kick off of programs and ministry. When the congregation found out Sue had a stroke and then died 2 days later, all of that preparation work came to a halt. The most important thing that needed to be done was to linger with people: hear their stories, cry together, comfort those in shock. For about 10 days surrounding her stroke and then funeral, all I did was be present for people. Folks wandered into my office wanting to talk or just share in the shock of what happened. It was an important time to let go of all the to-do lists and be available for conversation and sitting together quietly. Even though I wasn't busy as usual, I knew the work I was doing was more important than any list. I learned to not rush a conversation and let my silence be a comfort for others. We lingered then as a congregation. We still linger once in a while when Sue's name is mentioned. We pause and take a moment to remember her place in the world.
2014 was a good year. Our family had many great celebrations: college graduation, wedding, anniversaries. I was asked to share my work with other congregations. I stretched myself in my own ministry at Faith. In the midst of all the busyness, I discovered ways to linger. I felt fully present with myself, people around me and life. That is a really good year!