It is getting to that time of year when many teenagers will have to make a decision about their future, whether they wish to go to college after high school, or a trade school or take on an apprenticeship or whatever else. Our not-quite-there-yet children found one of my own graduation gifts: a book that seems to make a frequent appearance on tables inside home garages, where families invite relatives, friends, and plenty of others, to celebrate their high school graduate. It is Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t care too much for it at that point in my late teen years. I was more obsessed over gift cards, cash, and other pricier gifts. Yes, I appreciated the hand-written notes on the inside cover from my aunt and uncle and cousins: the usual “We’re so proud of you…We can’t wait to see what the future holds for you…Blessings!” etc. I suppose I cannot speak for all teenagers, but the words were spoken and written so often that I didn’t really care to go beyond those pages into Dr. Seuss’ wisdom for “the places [I might] go.”
The book has an interesting combination of out-of-this-world potential for the individual reader, whether they be a recent high-school graduate or anyone else, I suppose, in being the best of the best and the ability to move mountains and all, but also some humbling reality checks of “unpleasant bumps” and “Slumps” and more. The one section that grabs my attention most now is “The Waiting Place.”
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles cross weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place..
...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
Dr. Seuss insists on convincing the reader to turn the page, almost as if while turning the page, the individual can mentally, perhaps even spiritually, move past the potential of such a place taking over their life. “NO! That’s not for you! Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.” Of course, Dr. Seuss is wrong. We all find our “unpleasant bumps” and “Slumps” in life in general, yes, including in that dreaded Waiting Place. Yes, we wait for a “phone to ring” or “for a Yes or No,” among others listed in the book, not to mention test results, answers to desperate prayers, and on and on we could go. That dreaded Waiting Place may take over our life more than we care to admit.
But as much as last week’s wandering was about ensuring the essence of Christmas doesn’t fade away, perhaps this week is making sure the season of Advent’s plea doesn’t cease until next December either. That precious, often overlooked, portion of the church calendar year that recognizes we wait not only for a Second Coming of Christ, or waiting to celebrate the First, but that we wait for so much in our life, including much of what Dr. Seuss perfectly captures for teenagers and adults alike. God isn’t envisioning we never venture into the Waiting Place. It’s just that God empowers us to wait with eager anticipation; that the waiting will not bog us down into doing absolutely nothing but waiting, or dare get too close to give up altogether.
A few pages later, Dr. Seuss blesses us, perhaps, with an unintentional glimpse of the divine empowerment through such circumstances of life, including “On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl,” whatever those may be for us: our own self-doubting, our fears, worries, others in our life that don’t seem to support us as much as we like, even wondering about God’s love for us. “On [we] will go,” because there’s that One we don’t have to wait around for at all: Emmanuel, God [still] with us. We don’t have to come up with a perfectly-rhymed prayer or do this or that, and then wait around for God to show up in our life. It’s already happened from the beginning, and God insists on sticking with us through any Waiting Place we traverse in this life. And then…well, “On [we] will go” with God’s grace along the way. Thanks be to God, indeed!