To wait is to learn the spiritual grace of detachment, the freedom of desire. Not the absence of desire, but desire at rest. St. John of the Cross lamented that “the desires weary and fatigue the soul; for they are like restless and discontented children, who are ever demanding this or that from their mother, and are never contented.” Detachment is coming to the place where those demanding children are at peace. As King David said, “I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Ps. 131:2). Such a beautiful picture, a young one leaning against her mother’s breast. There is no fussing, no insistent tears.
She has learned to wait. The word detachment might evoke wrong impressions.
It is not a cold and indifferent attitude; not at all. May writes, “An authentic spiritual understanding of detachment devalues neither desire nor the objects of desire.” Instead, it “aims at correcting one’s own anxious grasping in order to free oneself for committed relationship to God.”
As Thomas à Kempis declared, “Wait a little while, O my soul, wait for the divine promise, and thou shalt have abundance of all good things in heaven.” In this posture we discover that, indeed, we are expanded by longing. Something grows in us, a capacity if you will, for life and love and God. I think of Romans 8:24–25: “That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy” (The Message). There is actually a sweet pain in longing, if we will let it draw our hearts homeward.