Holding Patterns

There are some times in life when you feel like life is moving forward. You get a new job. You meet someone new. You get married. A baby is born. You travel to a new place.

There are other times in life where you seem to be in a holding pattern. Nothing moves forward, nothing catastrophic pulls you under, you aren’t going backward—you are just…marking time. You get up. You go to work. You do your thing. You come home. On repeat.

I don’t love holding patterns. I find them a little depressing. No, not depressing. Frustrating. Kind of like, okay God, have you forgotten me down here? Kind of feeling.

But then I reflect back on times when life is crazy, moving forward and changing, and I realize that in those moments I was wishing for something a little more stable. I don’t like change…and yet I need change to feel like I’m really living my life. It’s one of those geeze, Ash, could you stop being so darn human for one second and just be satisfied with all the ways you’ve been blessed…kind of situations.

So the more I mark time in this holding pattern season of my life the more I start to realize it’s actually a blessing—“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1) —or in the case of a holding pattern a season for every inactivity as well

A Time to Listen

I am actually a really bad listener. If I had a nickel for every time I said “huh, I think we’ve had this conversation before”, simply because I asked a question I should have already known the answer to, I’d be able to retire. Most people forgive me for this, because despite the fact that I have the same conversation sometimes multiple times, it is not out of malicious intent—and most people know I really do care—but I don’t always listen with the purpose of remembering or internalizing. I think this evolved as a way to keep me from losing my mind. I’m naturally very introverted, but on average in one day I have hundreds of conversations…that may be an exaggeration, but I’m really not sure that it is (math…I have 25-30 kids in each class and I try to personally talk to most if not all of them at least once during the class period, though I’m not always successful. Then there is the mornings when I open my room for students because I get there early before the library even opens and kids like to have a place to sit. I’d say a good 15 or 20 are in there, then at morning duty I talk to people in the halls, then at lunch my room is never empty. Never…so okay hundreds is probably an exaggeration, but still. That’s a lot of conversing).

The point is, I’m not good at listening, because although I have these conversations, listening but I am very good at hearing. (As a caveat I should say I’m not good at every-day listening, but when something is really important, I’m much better able to tune in and internalize what is being said).

Holding patterns are great for learning to listen. There aren’t as many distractions and honestly it’s a skill we all could use some practice at. This semester I’ve had the privilege of teaching a creative writing course, and it has been so incredible. Just having the time to actually talk and listen to seniors as they prepare to enter the ‘real world’ which, if we are being honest, they’ve already begun the process of by this time in the semester, has really shifted my focus. Sure, I’m in a personal holding pattern, but these young adults are just getting started and the listening I do…I mean, it’s great.

But that also gives me time to just listen at home to…if I can put away the distractions long enough (Netflix is truely evil in the sense that it can be such a time suck…and Gardenscapes…Heaven help me). God puts us in holding patterns sometimes to get our attention. It’s not that he has forgotten us, it’s that we have forgotten him and he just wants to give us the time to listen.

Get up. Listen. Go to work. Listen. Do your thing. Listen. Come home. Listen.

A time to kill

No, I don’t mean to plan out the serial murders of all those who have hurt you. I mean I time to kill self-doubt. A time to kill worry. A time to kill all those little lies that have crept into your consciousness during those busy times.

Sure, this kind of killing off should be happening all the time, but during the holding patterns they become more evident. That’s when you have a choice: listen to the lies, or kill the lies and replace them with truth. You’ve got the time to really build that truth storage, so take it.

Photo by Aljoscha Laschgari on Unsplash

Get up. Listen. Kill the lies. Go to work. Listen. Do your thing. Listen Come home. Listen. Store up truth.

A time to heal

Along those same lines, holding patterns give us time to heal from the wounds, changes, surprises, disappointments etc. of the moving forward time. It’s funny we don’t really think we are that wounded until we have time in life…a holding pattern…in which we can reflect. It’s in these moments that if we allow God to enter in we can start to heal.

Get up. Listen. Kill the lies. Go to work. Listen. Do your thing. Listen Come home. Listen. Store up truth. Heal.

And in that pattern, God reveals his wisdom, love and plans…that’s when I notice the healing really starts. At least for me.

A time to build up

A holding pattern gives us time to grow and learn. We aren’t as worried about time, people, or things so we focus on our own healing and growth. Organisms that can adapt, change, and grow survive. Those that can’t, don’t. God blesses us with holding patterns to give us time to breathe and adapt.

Get up. Listen. Kill the lies. Build up & store knowledge. Go to work. Listen. Do your thing. Listen. Come home. Listen. Store up truth. Heal. Build up knowledge.

Photo by Ryan Fields on Unsplash

Because the truth is, holding patterns can be frustrating or they can be blessings. It’s up to us (me, sigh) to decide how we are going to use each season God grants us. When we start to see the potential in every season, that’s when we truly start to live.

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