As the elderly nursing home resident’s trust in the counselling intern grew, she candidly talked about wanting to die. She felt that having outlived her husband by almost half her life, she had no reason to go on living. She had lived a hard life and worked as a domestic servant to support her children. Now, unable to work, she felt useless and saw herself as a burden to others. Unsure of how best to deal with the old lady’s wish to die, the intern requested a consultation.
On learning that the elderly woman was a believer, I suggested to the intern that if she did choose to die by her own hand, it might upset God. Tongue in cheek, I said the Lord might ask her, “What are you doing here? Your time is not up yet!” I continued, that for someone so used to a life of service and respect for authority, it would not be right for her now to take control of her destiny and life in this way.
This encounter reminded me of other where the issue of timing had come up again and again.
There was the client who had struggled for years with standing up to an abusive husband. She certainly did not want things to carry on but seemed rooted in fear and indecision. Even when she could count on the support of family and friends and even from the law, she remained emotionally and psychologically ambivalent.
I remember her saying, “You must be tired of me (being so indecisive)? I feel so stuck!”
“Not so,” I replied. “In fact, I see you changing slowly but surely. In time, you will decide.”
“How do you know?”
My reply came spontaneously and caught me by surprise. I said, “You will know, when you know.” I half expected her to query this rather cryptic statement and was a little anxious if she did as I too was unsure what it meant. But she did not.
Over the years, I understand more and more what it can mean.
As we listen to ourselves and our internal dialogue, through all the “mental and emotional noise” and confusion, sometimes from our innermost being, comes a realisation. This awareness may need time to grow stronger before taking some definite shape and form.
How long, you may ask? I do not know.
Only that I remember this one mother, who after seven years finally decided to leave an abusive husband with her two children in tow. It took this long to give her husband ample opportunity to change and give her children the stability of an intact family and home. But after seven years, and after talking through her thoughts with me, she decided to act, and act resolutely she did.
I wonder how this topic of time features in your lives. Are you just biding your time here on earth? Are you anxiously waiting for something to develop? Or are you always rushing about finding that you do not have enough time to do all the things you want?
Perhaps we can go to our Lord the Creator and Giver of Time for some answers. He is always punctual and on time. At His appointed time, He allows things to happen.
What we need to do then is trust in His care and listen to His prompting. This is what Henri Nouwen called “Radical Waiting”: waiting with trust and openness to what God will do. And know that even as we wait in faith, He is already at work within us.
Benny Bong has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award, received in 2011, and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.
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