In the waiting

I am not a patient waiter.

Especially when I am waiting for God’s promises to manifest.

Waiting is never easy when you are sitting in the waiting room with only a vague idea of what is about to happen behind that closed door. You sift through old magazines and perhaps make idle conversation with those who are waiting with you. And there is always at least a tiny twinge of jealousy when someone sitting across the waiting room is called behind the closed door before you are.

Especially if they arrived after you did.

Much of my life has been spent in this room. Always waiting for something. I have wasted years staring at that closed door, often so consumed by the agony of the wait that I fail to see what is around me in the moment.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn from those moments of waiting. I’m not sure if we are ever aware of the lesson while we are going through the trial. Perhaps we glean little nuggets of wisdom along the way, but the lesson is bigger. Think of life as a tapestry; you cannot see the images of the tapestry until you begin to step away and view it from a distance.

When you are too close you are only able to see the threads. Some dark, some light, with no discernable pattern.

Stepping away has shown me the value found in the waiting. While you idly stare at that closed door, the threads of your life are being woven.

As Christians, we are often so quick to point out that “it’s all in God’s timing.” While this is certainly true and it has biblical basis, I believe this adage has become a sort of cliché and something we say when we don’t know what else to say. For me, it also reinforces the inaccurate depiction of God being a wise old man sitting on a cloud and rubbing his chin as he looks down at humanity. He is not a distant God. He lives within us, and not only is he intimately aware of every aspect of our lives; he is also intimately involved. When I consider a God who not only knows, but cares about something as inconsequential as the number of hairs on my head (Luke 12:7), it encourages me to consider why God is making me wait.

Considering the reasons I am waiting calls me to action, rather than passivity. We are not meant to lounge back in the waiting room, reading old magazines or watching TV. We are meant to use this time in preparation for what we will encounter when that door finally opens.

As I step back a bit from the tapestry of my life that has been woven so far, I’ve been able to distill that each of my times of waiting fall into one of the following three categories:

God is preparing you for what lies ahead

Mark 14:3 describes a woman who poured perfume over Jesus’ head. Jesus called this “a beautiful thing” (Mark 14:6). Before she could perform this act of worship she first had to break open the alabaster box that contained the perfume. We must also be broken before the beauty of the potential within us can be released.

No one is born with compassion for others. We come into this world selfish and seeking only our own comfort. A spoiled child rarely grows into a compassionate, tender hearted adult. Time spent in a fallen world breaks us. And those who turn to God in these times come out of the trial with a greater understanding of themselves, of God and their purpose in this broken world.

Or perhaps there is something you are holding onto that God needs to break you of before he can release the blessing. Selfishness, bitterness, anger, addiction, heartache…these are all things that would spoil the blessing if it were to be released in your life too soon.

I am grateful that I did not become a published novelist at age 18, when this journey first began. The pain of rejection and the struggle of pushing forward in spite of it strengthened me. Not only did it produce the obvious benefit of honing my craft, it also gave me strength of character, helped me to understand my purpose, and it gave me a tender heart that now leaks into my words. I believe I am a much more effective writer because of the things I have gone through in the waiting.

God is preparing someone else

Maybe you are sitting in the waiting room because you need to wait for someone else to arrive. As God works on you, he is also breaking that person’s alabaster box. I like to think of God’s plan as an intricate spider web. Everything we do is linked to something – or someone – else. We may never know on this side of heaven how our actions affected someone else, but everything we do matters. Perhaps God is waiting to release your blessing because the person it will benefit is not yet in a place to receive what they need to receive from you.

Someone told me years ago that instead of asking God to send me a mate, I should pray for my future husband (not just for God to bring him to me, but pray for him), because just as God is preparing me, he is preparing my husband as well.

God is dealing with your sin

This is a tough one. Sin is one of the things that God may need to break in your life before he can release the blessing. Rather than bury this in the first category, I thought it was important enough to set it on its own. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). To say that God will not release blessings to sinners is silly. That is like saying God’s blessings do not exist in this world, because everyone sins. If it was possible to lead a sinless life, we wouldn’t need Jesus.

One of my biggest irritations is when well-meaning (or sometimes not so well-meaning) Christians claim that someone is suffering because of their sin. While we may suffer from the consequences of sin, God does not withhold himself from sinners. God uses our sins for growth and spiritual maturity, and those who are in communion with him will be blessed along the way. But when a person is engulfed in sin, they will never be able to embrace the full blessing. God may withhold the blessing because of your sin, but it is NOT a punishment and he does NOT withhold himself. If you let him, he will guide you and lead you out of the sin, all while using it to prepare you for the blessing.

I once found myself in a sinful relationship after several years of intentional singleness. I knew this man wasn’t God’s best for me, and I had to make a conscious choice to allow this into my life. Light cannot have communion with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14), so I had to deliberately step away from God during this time.

But he never stepped away from me. As I look back I can see all the ways he kept tugging me back. There were tactical signs, such as when I parked behind a truck with a dusty mirror on which someone had etched “you are worth more.” What an odd thing to be on a truck mirror! And even odder that I should happen to park behind it and look up just as I’m thinking about whether I should continue this sinful relationship! I didn’t listen, of course, but that moment stuck with me and I know it had a lot to do with my eventual decision to walk away.

And there were non-tactical signs, none of which included condemnation. I felt God near to me during this time, loving me through my sin, and gently coaxing me out of it. I could write a series of blog posts about this, but I’ll just sum it up by saying that God used my sin to remind me of his intense, unfaltering love for me, even while (or because) I allowed myself to be degraded and humiliated by false love. He never wants us to sin, and we should never intentionally sin with the notion that God will pull us out of it, but God will use whatever is necessary to get us where we need to be. Not only did God break me of this particular sin, but also of my habit of communing with men who treat me as I once thought I deserved to be treated. Now I know I am truly worth more. And I’m finally ready and able to give my attention to the right man when God decides to introduce me to him.

 

If you find yourself in a time of waiting, take heart. God is not angry with you. He has not forgotten you. He simply wants to give you his best, so that you can glean as much goodness as possible from the blessing. Look around at the threads of your tapestry. Even if you can’t yet see the complete picture, what might these threads be teaching you? What is God saying to you?

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