I don’t know what it is about Advent that seems to bring me back to the idea of waiting. There must just always be something in the air, because the things the Lord was speaking during my quiet time yesterday seemed incredibly familiar. After typing “waiting” in the search bar of this blog, I realized they were.
I wrote this post almost exactly a year ago, but it could have just as well been written yesterday:
On Waiting, the Incarnation, and 27 Drafts
Except the fact that I only have 14 drafts right now, everything else I wrote a year ago resounds in my heart today. Because I’m still waiting. And the point is that until the day I die, I will be waiting.
I’ve reflected recently on the fact that I don’t know what the Lord is doing. And when we don’t know what the Lord is doing, we must learn to be good at waiting. That’s what life is. We will never stop waiting until we reach heaven. And how appropriate is it that that is the very thing Advent reminds us of. The paradox of waiting is that we are called to hope for the things that Christ does “far abundantly beyond we could ever ask or think,” but also within realistic expectations. We can’t idealize our future but we must be present and content where we are. And where we are is a place of waiting. And here’s the kicker: just because our hearts know that the Lord is trustworthy, doesn’t make it easy. It makes it easier, sure, but waiting is never easy. And so we’ll do anything to get away from the tension and frustration that is waiting. We develop patterns of thinking that say the waiting, or at least the big waiting is going to end when. . .when I get married, when I graduate college, when I have an established ministry, when I know the Lord’s plans for my future, when. . .
Waiting for the next step. The next season. The next thing. My dreams, the Lord’s dreams.
We try and escape the pain and frustrations of waiting because it’s uncomfortable. It takes away whatever sense of control we think we have. We want to reach the place where we feel we’ve arrived, where we aren’t waiting for the next thing – good or bad. The next diagnoses, the next phone call, the next date, the next bill, the next direction, the next conversation. It’s like the waiting place in Oh, the Places You’ll Go!. We like to pretend we don’t live there, and sometimes we assume we don’t live there because we just choose not to focus on the things we are waiting for. We believe that waiting is inherently wrong, unbiblical, and displeasing to the Lord.
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 waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
During my time with Jesus, I started humming the Toby Mac song “J Train.” We’ve got a ticket to ride to the other side, that is, heaven, and we’ll be in a constant state of waiting until the train drops us off on the shores of Eternity. The Lord designed it that way. We are waiting for unbroken intimacy with God; we were created to wait, to yearn, to long for Heaven. And so the things we think we are waiting for in this life are just a shadow of the greater, perpetual waiting of our hearts. When we are focused on the temporary things we wait for, it is only a problem because it often leads us to discontentment and causes us to miss what the Lord is doing in the present. The waiting itself is good. The Lord is with us on the “J Train,” empowering us in whatever car and with whatever people we may find ourselves around. He is also the conductor of the train and we aren’t entitled to information about the tracks He chooses to run it on. But, we can’t forget that God is also the final destination. The One we are ultimately waiting for. I think we are fighting something beautiful that the Lord gave us when we dismiss the tensions of waiting in our heart. We struggle to wait for the next thing, the next dream because we are ultimately waiting for the one thing our hearts were created for – Jesus.
But this isn’t an excuse to live focused on the future. The art of waiting is that the waiting we are called to, the waiting of the men and women in Scripture (like I’ve found in my recent reading of Ruth) isn’t passive – it’s an active waiting. Waiting often requires strength and grace because it is so dangerously easy to slip into distracted, discontent, temporal waiting. The kind of waiting that leads to the idolatry of earthly things and the dreams of my flesh.
As we are reminded through Advent of the waiting for the birth of Christ at Christmas and our continued waiting for the return of Jesus, let us rest in the beauty that is waiting. We were created to wait. To wait upon the Lord. To wait in the hope of Heaven. All the things we are waiting for in this Advent season of 2014 should be a timely, blessed reminder of how our hearts were created to wait in, upon, and for the One who is eternally worthy. Our waiting is not in vain because He has already come – as the squealing baby in Bethlehem. He lives in us now. And we wait for the completion of the love and joy we have in life now, in our broken, changing world.
The other thing that goes along with waiting is what we are waiting for. Are our dreams also God’s dreams – and what do we do when God’s dreams don’t come or go or look the way we expect? I’ve been wrestling through that with the Lord this semester. . .but that’s another post for another day.
“For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children” Psalm 103:14-17