Waiting is hard

Living the in between times

By Ken Rummer

Photo Credit: K. Rummer

Recently retired pastor Ken Rummer reflects on the experience of waiting as one whose retirement housing is still under construction.

It’s not like I’ve never waited before. I’ve waited for the cereal box-top prize to come in the mail. I’ve waited in the wings to go on stage. I’ve waited for summer vacation and for Christmas morning and for spaghetti water to boil. But now I am waiting again, as an extended-stay guest in a free-breakfast hotel. The house is not yet finished, and we are waiting.

The manse that came with our last call was home for 36 years, but, with retirement, it is home no longer. We did a lot of looking, on line and in person, for “home next.” When we decided on the empty lot by the High Trestle Trail, we knew the timing wouldn’t match up perfectly, that there would be a gap between the manse and the new house. It might be a month. It might even be six weeks. But we did the deal anyway.

Now here we are, 74 days into the gap, and the texture is just going on the walls. People warned us: “With a new house, it will take longer and it will cost more.” They were right.

I’m not complaining exactly. I know that I am only temporarily without a place to call home while others have no house and no expectations. I should feel grateful, and I do. But I find it disconcerting and discomfiting to be without a home.

I’ve worn the polish off my shoes. I’m running out of stuff to read. The clothes in my suitcase don’t always fit the occasion. And my usual pastimes are in storage. I feel like a train shunted to the siding, waiting for the Express to pass.

Who am I and what is my life when I am not in the place I used to be and I’m not yet in the place I am going to be?

People ask me how I’m adjusting to retirement and I honestly don’t know. Does what I am feeling arise from the onset of retirement or, as I think more likely, from the Twilight Zone vibe of being in between homes?

I’ve read that Celtic Christians paid attention to in-between places like the threshold at the door.  When you were at the threshold you were not in the house and you were not out of the house. You were in between. And that was a place of spiritual significance. A place of holy possibility. A place for prayer.

Will I see something of God in my situation of living in between? Is there a word to hear in this place that can be heard nowhere else?

I once romanticized the gypsy life, channeling a scarved fiddler who played with wild abandon for night dancers circling a roaring fire. I even painted a couple of pictures of that scene. But now, getting a taste of that dream with a red Prius for my gypsy wagon, I‘m not sure I’m cut out for the wandering life. My wings are getting tired and my roots are getting dry, and I find I am longing to be at home.

I write this during Holy Week on Holy Saturday, when the heavy stuff that went down on Good Friday is finished, and the resurrection life of Easter Sunday has not yet appeared. It’s a time of hope and anticipation. It’s a little Advent in the middle of Holy Week. It’s a day for waiting.

So we wait. For paint and flooring. For lights and carpet. For a house to reach completion so we can see if it can become a home for us.

Back before I retired, when I would sit with family members during a parishioner’s surgery, they would sometimes sigh or fidget or fill all the empty moments with words, and I would tell them: “Waiting is hard.” Now I get to tell myself.

Waiting is hard. Waiting like Mary during Advent. Waiting like the disciples on Holy Saturday. Waiting like a retired minister who has moved out of the manse and whose new house is not yet ready.

Ken Rummer, Teaching Elder PCUSA, Honorably Retired


Ken Rummer, a recently retired Presbyterian pastor, writes about life and faith from the middle of Iowa by the High Trestle Trail.