Thursday, December 3, 2009

In-Between Time

Whenever I read an interview with a writer, or other artist, people often want to know the story of how the book came about. They want to know how long it took to write, where they worked, what time of day, what they ate and drank, where they came up with their ideas, etc.

I have thought about this over the years as I have sat slogging through the middle of a book. And I have come to this realization: There is what happens, and there is the story of what happens. This is true of everything, and especially pregnancy and birth. There is what happens, and there is the story of what happens.

When we tell a story, we leave all the boring bits out. (Day 89 I got a pedicure and went to the grocery store.) We skip all the in-between time. This is just part of good storytelling, and I'm not suggesting that we change it, but recently, I have been thinking about in-between time in a new way. I was reading the story of Joseph who was sold into Egypt. Most of you know the story:
Potipher's wife accuses him and he is thrown in jail, then he interprets the butler's and baker's dreams, the Butler later puts in a good word for him with the king, and Joseph becomes 2nd in command in Egypt.
As I was reading, I was surprised to find that the Butler did not remember to put in the good word for Joseph for two years. I can't imagine how long two years must feel in prison. And yet I skipped over it in just a word.

I am sure that at some point during his imprisonment, Joseph must have thought it might never end. If it were me in prison, I would have quoted Elder Oak's talk "Good, Better, Best" and told the Lord that I could do His work so much better outside of prison. But we don't hear anything more about these two years, just as we don't know much about all the years between when Joseph Smith learned about the gold plates and when he actually received them.

Even though we skip over these in-between times, I'd like to propose that waiting is not wasted time. The times that seem to be inactive, monotonous, or otherwise boring bits that we will leave out of the final story, are actually profoundly active. We can't fully understand how much we are being molded or prepared when we are deep in it, but looking back, I often see how I needed each day--or each prayer, each temple visit, each episode of family home evening, etc--piled upon the one before, to get me where I needed to be. In the case of pregnancy, this is true both physically--we need all those days to get to a full term pregnancy--and spiritually. Elder Bednar uses the example of brushstrokes on a painting. Individually they are uninteresting, maybe even a mess, but from far away, all that spiritual preparation is turning us into something much better. A masterpiece?

So, for those who are feeling impatient or mired in blah days, I offer one of my favorite quotes from Rilke. I have substituted "artist" with "divine pregnant woman."

"Being a [divine pregnant woman] means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn't force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient. Who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast."
And this from Alma:
"But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life." Alma 32:41.

Spring comes.

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