In Praise of Tarrying

In Praise of Tarrying

I’m slowing down for this blog post. Real slow. I want to hit upon the importance of tarrying.

Before you dash to a dictionary or to The Google (which I argue has wrought massive damage to our collective memory skills), to tarry means to intentionally delay or to remain.

In our frenetic world of glowing glass screens and ADHD-fueled lifestyles, tarry stands out as a word full of melancholy loveliness.

It appears in an old gospel song penned in 1912 called In the Garden, which I first heard performed by Johnny Cash, although it’s been recorded by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Perry Como, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Glen Campbell, and appears in the films Places In the Heart and Nashville.

A LOT of the greats love this song! Tarrying makes the experience of the narrator possible. Here’s a sample of the lyric:

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses

And he walks with me
And he talks with me
And he tells me I am his own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known

American culture is obsessed with “time-saving” methods. We hanker for tips for “hacking.” We love shortcuts and the words, “just give me the bottom line.” Business books devoted to higher productivity sell briskly.

I’m not necessarily opposed to any of the above. But the attitude they express comes at a cost, and that cost has to do with serenity.

The Bible repeatedly recommends tarrying, probably because God knows how prone we are to embracing the frantic, hyperkinetic pace we call normal. Here are a few examples in context:

“Tarry all night and wash your feet.” – Genesis 19
“Come down to me, tarry not.” – Genesis 45
“Tarry; stay behind.” – Exodus12
“Tarry ye here for us, till we come again to you.” – Exodus 24

Tarrying lies at the heart of the famous, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). It also captures the disciples’ desire when they realize they don’t want the strange Visitor walking with them to Emmaus to leave them. The King James Version renders it:

“And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, ‘Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.’ And he went in to tarry with them.” Luke 24:28-39

I remember a saying of Father Vincent Serpa, OP, “God has two speeds: slow, and stop.”

True statement.

Tarrying is a great habit to develop. It’s not easy for people like me who are more go, go, go than slow, slow, slow. Nor does it mean laziness or the avoidance of duty. It means lingering on experiences of great beauty, which pass quickly and need to be savored. It’s the condition required for prayer. Tarrying is more “Mary” than “Martha,” and we know which mode of being was praised by our Blessed Lord in Luke 10.

What are you willing to slow down for? How long can you go without recharging?



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