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The Problem with Waiting

The problem with waiting is that the only part we seem to care about (perhaps because it’s the only part that directly concerns us) is the human perspective. Job went faithfully about his life as a slanderous tongue spoke above him (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-4). Elisha’s servant was blind to the hosts (2 Kings 6:15-17) just as Daniel was to the warfare written in the skies (Daniel 10:12-14). And who would have imagined Peter–poor, uneducated, pretentious Peter–would be the subject of Satan’s petition and Jesus’ prayer (Luke 22:31-32)? Each of these should be a lesson to us; a lesson that there is more to be seen in the midst of our waiting for God to move. And each of these scenarios should inform the way in which we wait.

Of the ways in which we often wait, I have gleaned three:

There is the Gethsemane kind of waiting; the waiting that doesn’t know it’s waiting (Matthew 26:38-41). It’s the lazy trick of shutting one’s eyes to the cosmic currents swirling all around. While we doze, “tranquilized with triviality,” Heaven and hell surround us with the clamoring cries of a universe at war — the battle cry that rises above it all, “Not My will but Yours be done!” If we had watched and waited we might have known; but we were sleeping just then and the moment catches us unaware.

There is a Calvary kind of waiting in which every dream is dashed and every hope cut off. It’s a forgetful kind of waiting (John 10:18; Matthew 16:21). But the Promise is there. It’s always there. The temptation is to follow Peter back to the nets (John 20:3-17), to return to what we know, to do as we have always done. Somehow it’s just easier that way. If we had believed and held fast, we might have known; but we were doubting just then and the moment catches us unaware (John 20:24-25).

But then there is the Mount of Olives kind of waiting (Luke 24:49-53; Acts 1:4-5). Jesus has risen to restore our faith and we know that the fortieth day will arise with a hope that is fresher still (Acts 2). The day is coming. It will appear. But today is not the fortieth day. It’s the fourth. There’s a difference.

That’s where I am right now; in the middle of the last one. This morning I waved goodbye and watched my old calling drive away in the distance.

My kids started school today.

I was nineteen when I cradled my firstborn. Her brother appeared when she was two and the baby of the family, a sister, trailed eighteen months later. I anxiously watched my growing brood, noting every change and contour of their minds, celebrating the small steps of their wobbly hearts, souls outstretched, lurching their way to God (though “He is actually not far from each one of us;” Acts 17:26-27). And when, at the age of twenty-six, I learned I could no longer have children, I determined to cherish these small charges all the more. So Jeff was not surprised when I said I wanted to homeschool our kids. It was a natural choice. What’s more, for the past twelve years of my life, it was my calling.

But the Lord has changed our course; all three are in school now and to tell the truth, I’m feeling a bit lost. Lost like those men who retire but keep thinking about the job; lost in that in-between time of unknowing. And so, as I awoke this morning, I opened my eyes to a new phase of my calling. I made breakfast, wrote a check, stifled a tear, breathed a prayer, and closed the door slowly behind me. The sound echoed somewhere deep in my soul.

Melodramatic, I know. And yet, times of great change are like that, aren’t they? Tinged with the knowledge that this moment that is, will never be again; that this is a moment of change and reorientation, of setting the face in a new direction with new possibilities. What remains is to watch, to wait for His direction, “in order that [I] may know the way [I] shall go, for [I] have not passed this way before.” (Joshua 3:2-4)

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