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Theology is no Substitute for Waiting Under an Oak

Photo Credit: Creative Commons – US Fish & Wildlife Service

I have an eight-year-old son now. He’s skinny, like I was.

He’s (mostly) gentle, a rule follower, and he prefers playing with Legos by himself in his bedroom and please stay out unless you are offering food.

Check, check and check – just like I used to be.

Practicing the Ritual of Waiting

I remember late on Saturday afternoons, when I was his age, I would hear my dad shouting out of the farmhouse. His voice moved like a ripple.

I scrambled toward the house as fast as I could, grabbed the shovel from its corner in the smallest barn and ran to the tilled portion of the garden.

I flipped over huge clods of dirt and filled a plastic cup with the enormous worms that tried to dance out of my grasp. Such a strange sensation of life, those writhing strings.

We walked down towards the church across the street, through the parking lot (glittering with monkey’s gold), past the hide-and-seek graveyard. We slid down the steep bank, grabbing at trees to slow our descent. Dad carried the worms. I carried the fishing pole.

Catching Life Lessons

There, under the shadow of a large oak tree, I learned to cast sideways so the hook wouldn’t catch in the low branches (that’s not to say numerous bobbers weren’t hanging from the leaves like red and white lighthouses).

I learned to watch the water closely. I felt the difference between the lively tug of a fish (like an electric shock) and the unyielding pull of an underwater branch (disappointment made tangible).

Mostly I learned to sit quietly beside my dad and wait.

I remember one day we caught a carp so big my dad ran home to get a five-gallon bucket – we filled it with water, put the fish in it, then walked around to our neighbors’ houses (my grandma, my uncle and aunt, our landlord) so I could show it off.

It was an ugly thing, completely un-eatable, but also completely huge and completely mine. We walked back down and returned it to the creek – it swam away, bearing a fish story none of its friends would ever believe.

The Beauty of Waiting Together

It seems absurd to me that my dad’s primary concern ever would have been making sure that I believed certain things about him: his exact height, for instance, or how far he could throw a baseball.

Now that I’m a dad, I know there are aspects of me that I want my own son to believe in: how much I care for him, or how concerned I am that he find joy and peace and love. But these are not facts that I can expect him to memorize.

These are characteristics of mine that my son will only ever truly learn by having a relationship with me.

And he walks with me
And he talks with me

Theology has its place, but it is no substitute for time spent waiting under an oak tree.

Question: What lessons have you learned by having to wait?

EdiTOR’s Note: Our family recently delivered our third child. As such, some blogging buddies of mine have graciously offered to write a series of guest posts to allow my family to spend a little time together – away from this blog. I’m deeply grateful for such friends, and I hope you enjoy their writing!

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Shawn Smucker, who recently finished a four-month trip around the United States with his wife and four children (8 years of age and under). He also wrote an E-book, “Building a Life Out of Words,” which tells the story of how his business failed, put him $50,000 in debt, and he used that hurdle as an opportunity to begin living the life he had always wanted to live.

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  1. Great thoughts. The message I heard at church this past Sunday was about Abraham and Sarah waiting for a child. The Pastor reminded us that waiting in Scripture is synonymous with “hope”. I like that. One of the takeaways was this thought “Walk with God wholeheartedly by stubbornly embracing that He is enough.” I think this is what I need to cling to when I am in a season of waiting. God is enough. Waiting shouldn’t shake or lesson our trust. I don’t have to try force things to happen. His plan and timing is the best.

  2. Excellent post Shawn.

    I’m reminded of an incredible quote borrowed from Susan Scott’s incredible book “Fierce Conversations”.

    The conversation is the relationship and the relationship is the conversation.


  3. I am reminded of my dad when I read this, thanks. Being in the mission field it has been 2 years since I last saw my dad in person or got to fish with him. I am waiting for the next chance.

    Waiting has reminded me that the things I wait for must be worthy of the wait or the end is disappointment. It causes a sort of reassessment of priority.

  4. Love it….it’s no substitute. The longer I live the more I believe we have to have experiences with the things we believe.

  5. Great post, Shawn. I remember those times as well with my Dad, and I cherish them. In this “gotta have it now” society we live in these days, it often seems so difficult to “sit and wait”, to listen, to renew our strength. Thanks for the reminder to make time to do that.

    Just today, a gigantic supercell thunderstorm rolled through our area late this afternoon. As my daughter and I raced home after her soccer camp, through the deluge, dodging bolts of lightning at every side, I plunged my car headlong into the garage, closing the overhead door behind us. Ah, safety! The sky had darkened, so as we walked into the house, I reached for the lightswitch.


    The power had been knocked out in the 30 seconds between the garage door closing to the ground, and us reaching the inside door.

    We opened the blinds to let some remaining light in, and we marveled at the storm booming outside, and finally it moved on, subsiding to a steady rain. As I sat down in my chair in the living room, it struck me how quiet it suddenly was.

    No TV.

    No radio.

    No computers.

    Just quiet.

    I sat, closed my eyes, and took it all in. “All” being actually so very little, but only discernable when the volume of everything else was turned… OFF.

    I have to say, it was really nice.


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