Friday, April 24, 2015

The Wisdom of Waiting

The Wisdom of Waiting 

 This world we live in is full of the need to work hard, to take action, 
to solve problems, to keep moving forward, going, going, going. Of 
course there is great wisdom in all of these things. Work doesn’t get 
accomplished when we are idle, and problems don’t get solved if we don’t 
do everything we can to figure them out. I absolutely know the truth of 
this from vast experience. I have written over sixty books, raised five 
children, served in many church callings, and faced many challenges in 
my life, both personally and professionally. And the more that problems 
came, the more I believed that I just had to keep working to solve them. 
I had to work hard to create income and conquer the ongoing flow of 
stories that kept coming into my head. I had to work hard to take care 
of my home and family. I had to work hard to find solutions to my 
failing health when every avenue I tried made no difference. I had to 
work hard to solve every spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical 
challenge that came up. I just believed instinctively that if I worked 
hard enough, eventually I would across some kind of metaphorical finish 
line and things would be easier, problems solved, life better. Well, 
guess what. I was wrong! Now, let me hurry and clarify before you even 
jump to assuming that I’m speaking out against the value of hard work 
and striving to be active in solving our life’s problems. I’m all for 
it! But through this intensely difficult season of my life, I have 
learned the very hard lesson that it’s only part of the answer, and 
missing the other part can be devastating.

Long ago I heard the little fable about a person in a rowboat with two 
oars; one represented faith and the other work. If the person only rowed 
with one oar—meaning all faith and no work—the rowboat would go in a 
circle and get nowhere. If the person only used work and no faith, the 
same thing would happen except the boat would spin in the other 
direction. It takes using both oars together to move the boat forward. 
The message and imagery has stuck with me, and I’ve always considered 
myself to be both hardworking and faithful. That is certainly true. I am 
hardworking and faithful. But the real meaning in life isn’t necessarily 
found in simple adages; they are just the tip of the iceberg. We are 
here to figure out who we truly are, and to become the person God wants 
us to become. And that doesn’t happen when you’re stuck in a pattern of 
thinking and behavior that isn’t getting you to those goals. I may have 
been frantically rowing with both oars, but I had completely missed the 
point that sometimes you just have to let go of the oars and lay back in 
the boat and allow God to guide its direction. Let go and let God. 
There’s an adage I thought I understood. Now, I’m beginning to see that 
I’ve not yet begun to truly let go and let God.

I’ve struggled with health issues that have taken me out of different 
aspects of my life for many years now. And I thought I understood what 
that meant. But now I have spent three years in a place where almost 
every facet of my life that’s important to me has been pulled away. My 
health got so bad that I couldn’t even go to church or the temple, the 
places where I seek spiritual strength and guidance. My inability to do 
things for and with my family intensified greatly. I can’t even go to a 
movie theater. My inability to be the kind of homemaker I would like to 
be also intensified. Without active help from my children, the household 
would not function at all. Relationships with friends and loved ones 
became strained or completely dissipated for various reasons and I’ve 
felt enormously isolated. My doctor summarized my complicated health 
situation and declared me to be “disabled” and he stated kindly “it’s a 
miracle you can do anything at all.” And then—to seal the deal—my 
creativity just flat-lined. I had felt it struggling for a long time, 
but I’d never imagined it would just shut off.

And that’s when the waiting began. I kept waiting, waiting, waiting. I 
couldn’t DO anything except pray and wait. My already flailing 
self-esteem began to beat myself up badly for not being capable of DOING 
something to solve all of these problems. I just kept waiting for a 
miracle to release me from this terrible bondage, for I indeed felt 
bound in so many ways.

About a year or so into my “waiting” I had the impression come to my 
mind of a caterpillar inside of a cocoon. The idea gave me hope and 
understanding. I was being changed into something better. One day the 
waiting would end and I would be able to fly. But months passing made 
the idea difficult to hold onto. More waiting; dark, painful, lonely 
waiting. My husband and children never stopped being a part of my life, 
but they went in and out with their own busyness and I just kept 
waiting. Months have grown into years of waiting.

I’ve been led to many different puzzle pieces that are helping me become 
the new me that I suspect and hope is being created in this cocoon. But 
the tightness and the darkness continue. However, one of the most 
powerful pieces for me was being led to a book called, “When The Heart 
Waits,” (sounds like an Anita Stansfield novel) by Sue Monk Kidd. The 
steps that led me to having that book in my hands are a series of 
seemingly insignificant events that miraculously put it right in front 
of my face at the exact moment I needed it. The book is about her own 
midlife darkness and struggle and waiting, and she uses the metaphor of 
the cocoon, the chrysalis, and the butterfly to illustrate her poignant 
and powerful message, all of which is presented with a strong Christian 
theme. I’m not quite finished with the book yet; I’ve had to read it in 
small increments and take it into my spirit. But I am learning the 
purpose and the art of waiting, not to be ashamed of my waiting, but to 
recognize that God put me on bedrest to get my attention, and he’s 
carefully and quietly teaching me the greatest lessons of my life. But I 
cannot hear His lessons if I’m so focused on the frustration of waiting 
and being idle that I’m not paying attention to the wisdom of divine 
guidance and instruction. I have been shown the many dysfunctions that 
had been a part of my life before waiting. And I am being guided on how 
to change them. I have far to go, but I’m relaxing more in my little 
boat, looking for the beauty all around me that I had been missing, and 
counting my blessings while I take in moments of joy amidst the ongoing 
pain and struggle.

I have learned and am continuing to learn much, but the most powerful 
thing I’ve found is the immensely deep message in one of my favorite 
scriptures. “Be still and know that I am God.”

My little boat is in His hands.

Anita Stansfield aka Elizabeth D. Michaels
(All of Anita Stansfield's books, and The Horstberg Saga by Elizabeth D. Michaels,
are available at

P.S. A note from Anna here! 
Anita (or you know, my mom) has most of the book notes ready to post. There are a LOT of them though. This is essentially a warning that the blog will soon be flooded with posts while we're getting all of those up. 
They'll be organized via a list and links in a tab. 
Carry on! 


Angela said...

I sit here writing this with tears in my eyes. So many loving people have not understood what my life has felt like over the past year. I just told my visiting teacher that I feel like a kid who's face is getting scrubbed so hard that I'm now getting zits because my face is too clean.

I forced myself out of hiding this morning and I found this beautiful message of hope and peace in my email. Thank you for being brave enough to share.

emmiesfamily said...

Thank you for that post, it is very inspiring. I loved reading this last book, the words to the song inspired me to do something I have never done before and don't really know how to but the tune to this song came into my mind, I am still working on it. but also through this I wrote a poem that fits with the music I am trying in my limited knowledge to write. Your books have been inspiring to me and I have read everyone of them.
The poem I wrote I would like to share with you, It is about the temple.
I know a place where I can go,
where peace and love are found.
Where marbled halls and light abound, it's where I feel his love.
A place where spires reach the sky, and heaven and earth shall meet. Where sacred covenants are made I can feel my Saviors love.
Where i can contemplate and pray, In rooms so beautiful and bright, it's here I feel my Father's love, As he answers me tonight.
I hope you enjoy my poem, I really enjoy your work. thank you so much for sharing your stories and poems and love. I hope the butterfly is free soon. Thanks Barbara Rogers

Robyn3376 said...

My friend! You are one the most incredibly amazing and inspiring women around! You have inspired so many people with your beautiful stories and books that you have written. Not only your written words have been inspirational but the incredible person that you are. Your cocoon, and darkness is because of the strength of your spirit and what you will be able to accomplish once this is done. Our Heavenly Father loves you, and there is much more for you to do! I love you dearly, and am so grateful for renewed friendships. You have had the ability to touch hundreds, thousand, even millions of people with your written words that help people in ways that you may never know. Faith, Trust, Hope and lots of work, and knowing when to let go and let God take over for awhile, will get you through this!
Love you dearly!