People do not like to wait, of this I am convinced. We are the fast-food, online check-in, microwave poaching, texting, snapping, instagramming, all things social, all things now land of the free, home of the brave where waiting is uncomfortable and waiting is bad.
Do you disagree? You shouldn’t.
Next time you go to the DMV, go at noon.
Next time you go to the grocery store, check-out in the longest time available.
Next time you want to ask somebody a question, write them a letter and put it in the actual mail.
Next time you want to use the internet, use dial-up.
You aren’t going to do any of those things (me either) and why? Because it’s 2017, and why wait when we don’t have to?
We are American, people. We like fast. Fast cars, fast coffee, fast internet. We invented Cliff Notes (why read a whole book when you can just read the highlights in half the time?). We can order our groceries online and schedule the most convenient time to simply swing by and pick them up. You don’t even have to get out of your car! No lines, no work, no problem.
Chick-Fil-A gives you free food if you have to wait longer than two minutes for your order. (One of the many reasons to love that chicken biscuit land of amazingness…)
Sometimes it’s almost comical…like who are we in competition with? How did waiting become public enemy number 1?
And it’s not just the external stuff…I believe our hate of wait goes deeper. It applies to our feelings, emotions, thoughts, hopes, dreams….
Think about the last time you went through a season of sorrow, or a time of uncertainty, or a time of great anticipation about something that was to come…
Did you revel in that time, or did you wish the wait to happiness, certainty, anticipation wasn’t so long?
If you’re normal (like me) you probably don’t know anybody who says, “I am waiting on x,y,z right now and I just love this opportunity to live in uncertainty/brokenness/confusion/anticipation/fear with a dash of yikes!/… etc.” Right?
And yet, here is what I am being challenged with. This act of hating the wait, unbeknownst to us, has a direct impact on our spiritual lives.
It’s baggage that we bring into our relationship with God.
Let me explain.
Instant gratification (the opposite of waiting) puts me first. My food shouldn’t be late because I’m hungry. I want this situation to resolve because it makes me feel x/y/z. Our rebellion against “the wait” is simply because we are focused on ourselves. Our needs and expectations are front and center.
We have become masters at meeting our needs and putting ourselves in the number one spot. So when we come before God there should be no surprise that this is what we bring to the table. This is how we act with Him. This is our spiritual baggage.
We expect God to put our our wants/needs front and center. We expect God to act immediately. We expect God to act how we want him to act. Suddenly worship has become about the “me” rather than the “He…” And then, we get confused when God seemingly doesn’t answer a prayer, or act how we think he should act, or we are left in a period of waiting because, simply put, we are not accustomed to this practice.
Following Jesus is totally different than living in modern day America. Americanly speaking, waiting is unacceptable. Spiritually speaking, waiting is a life-giving, life-changing practice.
When we wait, it gives time and space for what is in our hearts to come to the surface.
Is there something you have been asking God for? Is there a situation you are in where you can’t see how it all works out? What are the thoughts taking up space in your mind? What are the prayers you are praying?
Is there peace?
Is there fear?
Is there hope?
Is there sorrow?
Is there anger?
Is there trust?
Is there frustration?
Is there a desire for change?
Does it bring to light something in you that needs to change?
Does it put a spot-light on a need of another?
Kris and I have been in a period of waiting for a while now concerning our living situation. We are most likely looking at a move (in the same area) in the next couple of months, but we have no idea where we are going yet or how we are going to afford it. We have been in constant prayer about it and we’ve done what we can financially help us prepare. And yet, I found myself awake the other morning at 4:00 am with tears running down my face. I was filled with fear and uncertainty. The waiting process was bringing to surface my lack of faith.
Waiting gives us the opportunity to experience God.
Some may be quick to give me a pass on my lack of faith- because after all no one is perfect and wouldn’t anybody in my situation be concerned about the same thing? Some may be appalled that as a pastor I straight up am telling you that I have doubts that God is going to show up. Here is where I land. I am thankful for it because now I know how to pray. Besides praying for the thing I want – a house – I can now pray for the thing God wants – a deep-rooted faith. Waiting exposed the thing in me that was most unlike Jesus – doubt and fear. I can now name my weakness, confess it, and ask God to change me.
My prayer looked like this, “God, I am crying at 4:00 am because I don’t believe you are going to help me. Lord, that is so untrue, but I cannot change. I submit this ugly part of my heart to you, and I ask for your spirit to make me faithful instead of doubting.”
We experience God in the waiting, not only by waiting in anticipation to watch him move and work, but also by giving him the opportunity to change us, to make us more like Jesus. We have the opportunity to trust him with the things we are often afraid to say out loud, that we try and fight through ourselves. And then we have the opportunity, in the waiting, to see how he responds.
Waiting takes the focus off self and puts the focus on God.
One of my very favorite Psalms to read right now is Psalm 77. It caught me so off-guard when I first read it because I expected there to be more. The first half is a man describing his frustration with God and the situation he was in. He felt forgotten and abandoned. He was so troubled he couldn’t speak. The thought of God made him groan out loud.
I love a good and honest poem about prayer, God, frustration, and waiting. Psalm 77 is exactly that. It is somebody who (when he thought about God) got upset, felt rejected, and it made him question his faith. Real. Life. Stuff.
But halfway through the Psalm the author makes a shift. He decides to make an appeal to God. Instead of focusing on whatever it is that is leaving him in such a broken state, he says (and I paraphrase), “I’m going to remind God about all the things he has done in the past.” The author then begins to list all the ways God has shown up for him and the things he knows to be true about who God is. In the waiting, he moves his focus from self and instead puts the focus on God.
And then my very favorite part happens…
It just ends. Literally. I actually was so confused when I read it and turned the page to see what happened next. Is the wait over? Did God answer? How did God answer? But there was nothing on the next page. His prayer was literally just over in the middle of him remembering who God was.
The beauty of that for me was that it appears he doesn’t need the answer as to what happens next. When he shifted his focus, it was enough. It was so much enough that I like to believe he went back to doing whatever he was doing before… or maybe he fell asleep, or maybe he was just simply at peace. Whatever it was, it was enough to simply finish the prayer and walk away.
When we shift our focus back to God (and this is especially true the longer we follow Jesus) we can look backwards and see the times God came through, that God revealed his character of power, compassion, and love to us. When we put our focus back on God we are reminded that even in our waiting we are not without help and we are not alone. And maybe, just maybe, that is enough to make it another day.
What are you waiting on? Where do you need God to show up today? My challenge for you is to dip your toes into embracing the wait. Let what comes rise to the surface. Share it with God and begin to pray you would experience God in the midst of the wait. Begin a list of what you know to be true about God – and if there is not much you know to be true about God, keep a blank page waiting because I am confident that he will show up.
My prayer as you wait today is that you may find wholeness, blessing, and peace as you experience God in a new and powerful way.