Tag Archives: laura Eusterman

What are you Waiting For?

19 Oct The Waiting Place – Dr Seauss
The Waiting Place – Dr Seauss

The Waiting Place – Dr Seauss

 

  Something feels off, not quite right? You must be in a bout of sadness. If so, what would lift you out the unwelcomed sullenness? Get home and grab a glass of Shiraz. It has worked before. Maybe start that book that you set on the edge of the dresser weeks ago and have passed in between the last duty and the next obligation. Fine. But, the words are uninteresting. Flip through photos to remember spring or munch on candy corn from the freezer and think of upcoming autumn. Uneventful. Sun always does the trick, so bike down to the park. Ride quick across the bridge, too. There is nothing in the Twin Cities that can revive a torpid soul like flying over the Mississippi. And so you do.

   But this time it seems to be only a river to get over. How was it before? The fishing spot, the place for a long run. It was a shoreline wondering with a cigar hanging from your lip mid good conversation: like that one on the nature of space travel or whether your friends were for or against gardens inside the house. The river has been the reason for sitting all evening to watch the sinking sun. How once you were flabbergasted for a whole afternoon by the fact that this section of water somehow makes it to Memphis and Baton Rouge, and then may someday splash a Cuban kid or rain on Mongolia. Now you cross the bridge with some appreciation, of course, but in no way are you elated to sing into the wind or ride without hands.  It is a bunch of water and you are entering busy traffic driven by the overworked and unaware.

   It is as if there was once a kind of life to be experienced inside the kayaking or homemade Juicy Lucy’s on the grill. However, in sadness, the components are still there: trees, friends, evening time, but the crucial component is missing – that hidden life within it all. The stuff that presses itself into memory and catches you from falling asleep to the world has left your surroundings.

   So what to do to get it back? Two options: fill the day with more activity and as many short thrills as one can manage. Or wait. Wait until that life comes again, and get ready for its coming. For the Christian, this life, or liveliness, is from God and can only be seen as an unachievable gift. And according to a saint, Bernard of Clairvaux, waiting is a kind of active searching: “let us wait for the Lord, let us seek after Him.” It is a brave way to remain tied to what you wait for. Waiting is not a giving up, but a realization that we cannot create our happiness, but to be ready for when it is given.

– Laura Eusterman

 

Leaving and the Return

4 Jan

  My family loves to sit in the front of the church for midnight Christmas Mass, and every year other parishioners get audibly annoyed with us for saving an entire row up until the minute before Mass starts. My father has made it a habit, most likely developed in his bell-bottom bachelor days, which he can’t seem to grow out of completely, to be late for everything. After a few years of enduring the embarrassment I agreed to take the yearly duty of saving seats if and only if the rest of the family promised to arrive well before the altar boys processed down the aisle.

Leaving and the Return - Laura Eusterman

  Last year, I remember waiting such an uncomfortably long time for my family to arrive that I thought it best to kneel and pray before anyone could tell me that they wanted to take those seats. Everyone around me was chatting. I could not concentrate on the simplest Hail Mary, let alone any kind of heart to heart with God. He had seemed distant lately anyway. I hadn’t been able to hear Him even in the silent moments and purposeful prayer time in the past weeks, maybe months.

  Closing my eyes and bowing my head seemed to amplify the conversations around me. Why would He reach me in this echoing church if He hadn’t been speaking when I had been ready to listen? This frustration may have been as bad as showing up with my tardy family.

Trying to drown out the noise with my own thoughts and seeking mental escape only turned into criticism. “Some ‘house of prayer!’…Now I understand why natives don’t like tourists…If I see one more person texting in here I’m going to freak out.” It was the self-righteousness talking, not me. “This is not helping.”

I gave up, sat back, and picked up the Christmas program. The top of the page had a quote by the pope. It was something like: “Christ leaves so that He may come back again.” It struck me, not in the way of an answered prayer, but more like a surprise. God left His friends all the time! He came into the world as a man, He slept when the apostles were in a storm, He died, came back, ascended, and descended. He even showed up to two travelers only to vanish when they recognized Him.

This is exactly what Advent and Christmas, and my distraction in prayer, is about: recognizing that He is not here but that He will come. It may be true that He is always present, but we don’t always perceive Him. Some of the time it feels like he is uninvolved. He comes. He leaves. He does as He wishes, not as we want. I think He leaves to make His return that much more potent. I think He wants us to miss Him so that we fully embrace Him when He comes back. Needless to say, my family showed up, a little before right on time.

-Laura Eusterman

Developing a ‘Sitting Culture’

26 Sep
Fritz Eichenberg’s “The Last Supper”

Fritz Eichenberg’s “The Last Supper”

Recently, I went back out West to revisit my alma mater. I sat on campus waiting for an old friend. She was very late so I took my time to people-watch. Doing so reminded me of an article I wrote for a publication on campus a while back. I called it “The Looking Culture.” I wrote about a theory that college students are particularly bad at communication. I noted that students spend more energy watching each other, talking about each other, and having sex with each other than actually connecting and conversing. Sitting on the quad now I began to rethink my presumptuous theory. I knew a whole lot of watching was going on, but how can one measure the quality of other’s conversations?

So, I began walking around in order to catch utterances of the many conversations going on during passing period. I wanted to be pleasantly surprised, but the popular talking topics of these educated people were the following: hooking up, what teacher is a “d-bag,” who drank the most last night, what girl is a B, and what guy is “so funny.” I noticed that none of these conversations were actually conversations; they were essentially opportunities for people to talk. In each instance the speaker spoke over the other to vent an opinion then the other spoke over the first to vent their own (which were not always related).

I was jarred by these conversations, in part, because I have experienced a new kind of culture since college. Conversely, it is what I call “Sitting Culture,” and one Minnesota is particularly good at living out. It is the habit and ability of taking time to be with friends. Time is the necessary ingredient in order for the young person’s frantic watching to become seeing. In sitting with each other, we cultivate the invisible things: humor, nuances, patience, trust, and intelligent thoughts.

This is also the secret to the happy person in prayer. Many of us may not find peace in the Church precisely because of our inability to sit with God. This disquiet leaves us watchers of religion and starers at Mass. But God seeks to converse and connect with us. He is the God who spent his time with the sloppy Apostles and sinners at table, and the same man who seeks time with us.

– Laura Eusterman