Monday, April 7, 2008

Winslow Homer on Waiting

It takes a lot of self-restraint and conviction to wait for what you want. From the moment we're born, we contend with our own impatience. Just watch a hungry newborn trying to suckle their mother. We want what we want when we want it!

Recently, I thought about our impatience to wait when I read this quote by Winslow Homer. Homer, a celebrated American artist, is known for his exquisite use of light diffused across melancholy seascapes.

In a letter to a friend, Winslow Homer described his working method. "I work very hard ever afternoon from 4:30 to 4:40—that being the limit of the light I represent. You must not paint everything you see. You must wait, and wait patiently, until the exceptional, the wonderful effect or aspect comes.” (The Chicago Institute of Art, special exhibit)

How many of us wait, and wait patiently, for the exceptional and wonderful? More often than not, we settle for less than the best OR end up painting everything we see! We run around gathering and hoarding all that we can get our hands on rather than waiting for that which is exquisite.

I just spent a glorious weekend in Nashville, Indiana, speaking at a retreat. (If you’ve never been, but were to visit this scenic village nestled in the hills of southern Indiana, you just might change your mind about what you think of the Hoosier state!) It is an uncommonly beautiful and dramatic landscape.

I spent the weekend with women from New Life Community Church—every bit as warm-hearted as the spring weather we enjoyed. They soaked in the experience and were so responsive to the message of The Wide Open Spaces of God. I feel like I just made a batch of new friends!

They are in transition between lead pastors. As a result, they are a “community-in-waiting.” However, rather than impatience, I sense a growing resolve to lean in to the waiting and be transformed by it. In the process, I wonder if they won't discover far more of their own gifts, passions, and destiny, as they wait on God to lead them to the next chapter in the life and leadership of their church.

Homer knew what he was looking for, the lighting he wanted. To capture it, he waited for that narrow ten-minute window between 4:30 pm and 4:40 pm and worked exceedingly hard to replicate it on canvas. What great things would come—exceptional and wonderful things—if we learned to be patient and wait.