by Lance Witt
The Gift of Loitering
I just spent a couple days with two really good friends. The setting was perfect—a beautiful house in the mountains, fresh snow, a blazing fire, good food, and plenty of hot coffee. They left about an hour ago, and I’m staying behind for a couple of days to write and be with God.
The house is now empty, but my soul is full. Over the last forty-eight hours we laughed, reminisced, confessed, bantered, evaluated, dreamed, reflected, and planned. There was no posturing or pretense . . . we know each other way too well to play those games. The conversations were honest, rich, personal and stimulating.
And, I find myself wanting to loiter . . . to linger over the gift of these last two days. I want to stop long enough to let my soul soak and marinate in what just happened. I have this profound sense that the afterglow of such an experience provides a wonderful platform for God to speak to me. My heart is soft and my spirit is open. Like taking in a spectacular sunset, I want to stay in the moment.
In fact, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that “lingering” is the completion of the experience; lingering is usually followed by awe and gratitude. Maybe the reason there isn’t much awe and gratitude in the lives of Christians is that there isn’t much lingering.
I want more slow and deep in my life, and less fast and shallow. Lingering is one practice that helps me. Lingering helps me to slow down, to savor, to deeply experience. Honestly I’m not very good at this. My default mode is to quickly move back into the world of productivity . . . tasks, projects, and lists.
When I was a kid, I was asked to go on vacation with the Maxwell family. They had five kids and a big, clunky, green station wagon. I quickly learned they didn’t vacation travel like my family. The few times our family went on vacation, we were all about the destination. Our goal was to reach our target destination as quickly as possible, with as few stops as possible, and with as few fights as possible. There was to be no fun or relaxation until we arrived. And it was imperative that your bladder hit full when the gas tank hit empty.
Well, the Maxwells had a totally different philosophy of vacationing. My first clue was that we didn’t pull out of the driveway at the appointed time. They’d obviously not been to vacation boot camp; they didn’t even synchronize their watches! Even more bizarre was that they weren’t stressed out about it. They just didn’t seem to be in a hurry at all.
We finally pulled out of the driveway and headed out of town. After about thirty minutes on the road, I noticed Mr. Maxwell slowing down and pulling off the highway. I was pretty sure we didn’t have a flat; there was no noticeable mechanical problem; no one was fighting. I couldn’t imagine why we were stopping.
As we were all piling out of the car, I asked what was going on. I was informed we had stopped so we could all read the Historical Marker sign. I thought they were kidding. They were not. We would be stopping at all the historical markers along the trip.
Our family had never stopped once at a historical marker. We scoffed at people who did. Didn’t the Maxwells know life is too short to waste time reading signs? Didn’t they know it’s about the destination, not the journey?
The Maxwells knew, and I’m just now learning, that lingering is a good thing. Taking time to enjoy a dusty old historical marker actually added to the experience; it didn’t diminish it. They also believed that the vacation began when you start, not when you arrive. When that’s your mindset, it’s okay to enjoy moments along the way.
The Bible frequently calls on us to linger. The challenge to “remember” or “think” or “meditate” is often an invitation to do so.
- Think of the wonderful works he has done, the miracles, and the judgments he handed down (1 Chronicles 16:2 NLT).
- I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night (Psalm 63:3 NLT).
- I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works. I think about what you have done (Psalm 143:5).
- Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God (Philippians 1:3 NLT).
When I think of my two friends, I give thanks to my God. So, how about it? Why not pull away from your computer for a few moments and just linger?
What unexpected gift did you receive today? Maybe it was a teachable moment with your child or a Bible verse that was just what you needed or encouragement from a good friend or just another day of life.
What about making a commitment to becoming a spiritual loiterer? Instead of rushing on to the next thing you have to do . . . STOP. REFLECT. THINK. PONDER.
Questions for Discussion and Reflection
- When did you recently take time to loiter (linger) over something beautiful?
- What small thing brings you great delight and joy?
- How good are you and your ministry at lingering to celebrate God’s good gifts?
- What could you do to improve your team’s “lingering” and “celebrating”?
- As you linger over your spiritual journey, what are you most grateful for today?
Lance Witt is the founder of Replenish Ministries, an organization devoted to ministering pastors to help them become healthy, holy, and humble. He also serves as the Pastor for Strategic Development at Thomas Road Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. replenish.net