(Don't) Wait For It
My house just finished our second watch-through of Hamilton yesterday, this time with lots of commentary as we assessed characters, their motivations, their shortcomings, their shattered dreams, and ways they shoot themselves in the foot.
Aaron Burr in particular.
|(photo by Xu Haiwei, from unsplash.com)|
"If you were waiting for the opportune moment," Jason said as we watched, "that was it."
I find Burr a relatable character for many reasons -- his exasperation with Hamilton, his willingness to hold on and wait for what he wants, his reluctance to commit to something that he isn't sure how it's going to end. His aversion to risk. And it is almost viscerally painful to watch his character arc through the musical, how he is always just a little too late to commit to a course of action, how the one time that he finally decides to pull the trigger is exactly the wrong and worst possible time to do it. There are many threads of tragedy in the stories told by Hamilton.
Anyway, with those thoughts in the back of my mind, I opened a letter today from friends who have spent the past few years living and teaching in China. They're currently in the US, hoping to return to China, but uncertain of when that will be possible. And I thought about how one of those friends, TJ, made an appeal almost six years ago that struck me right in the heart. China is open now. We are welcome now, invited now. If we don't take this chance now, what regrets will future generations have?
When I moved back to China in 2016, there was a general feeling that China was already beginning to tighten up again. Global nationalism and tension between countries influence policies in ways that are often counter to what individual citizens of the countries want; what none of us anticipated was a pandemic that would more quickly close borders than anything we had experienced before.
I don't have a failproof flowchart for how to decide when to wait and when to jump in and act. There's a good bit of discernment required -- what do the wise people in my life counsel? how is the Holy Spirit leading me? what is motivating me to wait or to act: fear, impatience, love, joy? -- and there is always an element of risk in making choices. Frequently, we don't have much idea of how things would have played out if we had made a different decision. But every now and then, I get a reminder that good things grow out of committed action.
(As I wrote that, I also remembered talking with a friend who had been a Navy SEAL about their training on acting in emergencies, about how it is almost always better to do something, to take a next step, and then to keep figuring out where to go from there, rather than wait until you're sure that you're right.)
There are times to wait. There are times when we are told to wait, and much of life is waiting for one thing or another. But as I think about my friends who are waiting to find out when and if they can go back to China, I am so thankful for the challenge that was placed in my life to not keep waiting on making a decision, to just go. And maybe that's a difference -- when there is a call on our life to some sort of action, waiting is not wise, it's disobedient.
Maybe that's the point I was getting to with this rambly post. Maybe it's what I need to hear and take to heart right now, because I think the temptation for me is often to see waiting as wisdom -- to be better prepared, to be sure that I'm ready, that I have alternate plans to fall back on if my original one doesn't work out -- but it's a very self-reliant, human kind of "wisdom."