There is a four-letter word that has a profoundly negative affect on us all. Our children are particularly sensitive to it. When we use this word, our children hear the equivalent of “Carry this 100-pound boulder across the bridge.” When we face encounters involving this word, our carefully planned world falls apart. And yet at times it seems God sends us this very same message – wait.
We do not like to wait for anything. Isn’t that why microwaves were invented? We are looking for convenience, ease, and speed at every turn. Let’s face it – we are busy people. Waiting for anything is not in our realm of possibility or consideration.
Then we read scripture and we are really confused. Today’s lesson from the book of Acts notes the disciples are simply standing together, gazing into heaven after Jesus left them and ascended before their very eyes. The phase of ‘awesome’ that began at the resurrection culminated in Jesus’ return to his Heavenly Father. It is no wonder the disciples wanted to take a moment. Perhaps they were just a bit stuck in insecurity – what do they do now? How do they continue to proclaim Jesus as the risen Messiah when he had already returned to heaven? And if that wasn’t enough, they were then told to return to Jerusalem, stay together and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Waiting for anything can be a hard pill to swallow. Where can we find any good with wasting time waiting for God to act? We read stories of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Elizabeth, and Hannah. Each person was put through a time of waiting on God. Abraham needed to wait many years before he became a father to all nations. Joseph spent years in prison waiting for God to intervene. Moses wandered in the dessert and never crossed into the promised-land. David was named king by Samuel, only to spend years running for his life from King Saul. Elizabeth and Hannah both prayed for many years before being blessed with children.
What happens to us during times of waiting on God? It seems many of us proceed through stages similar to the stages we experience during times of grief. Perhaps we are initially steeped in denial. Maybe we think God is not interested in answering our prayers. Perhaps we pray to God for someone or some situation, only to pick that burden up the second we say ‘amen’ and attempt to fix it for ourselves. We don’t want to wait for anything or anyone – not even God. So perhaps we find ourselves in denial, thinking God is ignoring us.
Maybe we are experiencing anger with God. We can see no good purpose for waiting and absolutely abhor wasting time. Time is our last true commodity – one we fragment into little pieces or squander away, manage minutely or take a more reactionary approach. When God doesn’t fit into our neatly managed timeslots, we can easily become angry at God. We rebel from any idea that the most beneficial thing to do at this point in time is to wait.
Maybe we are at the phase of bargaining with God. Instead of waiting we look for alternatives to ensure that every microsecond of our lives is filled up and therefore meaningful. We have bought into the notion that unless we are pushing forward we are in fact losing our worth as human beings. We have forgotten the need to meditate on God. We have begun praying for another option since it appears God is not answering our prayers. We seem to think God only answers ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Perhaps our next petition to God begins with “God, if you get me out of this one….” We attempt to bargain with God, and I’m guessing we do this all the time.
The last two phases of grief also seem to apply during our times of waiting – depression and acceptance. I remember last year when I received the word that I would not be ordained. The Board of Ordained Ministry did not deny my ordination but did tell me I would have to wait another year and try again. I was fairly heartbroken. I’m certainly not getting any younger. I completely choked during my interview but I thought they would take into consideration my years of service and all the other pieces of the puzzle that have to come together in order to be approved. In order to help me succeed this year, the board had assigned me a mentor.
You have to know that when I was commissioned three years earlier in 2011 there was one particular interviewer that gave me a really hard time. I had to push back to what I felt was my personal breaking point. I spent the following 3 years absolutely loathing this person. In their infinite wisdom, the Board of Ordained Ministry assigned this pastor to be my mentor.
I did not understand God’s message to me to wait. I did not want to accept the additional pressure or repeating all my written work, all the interviews, all the hoops I had to jump through. Now I had the additional chore of meeting with my mentor, someone toward whom I did not have good feelings. Yet over this past year, I became extremely appreciative of my mentor. I came to understand her and realize the hardships she has faced. I grew to love her as my sister in Christ, so much so that she will be standing with me in 2 weeks at my ordination service. God used my time of waiting to help me find forgiveness and understanding that was literally eating away at my soul.
It is when we reach the point of acceptance with waiting that God can do the most work in us. When we know beyond a doubt that no matter how God chooses to act on our behalf we will continue to serve God. Even when we see the road ahead as a clear path but God is telling us to wait, we come to a point of saying “No matter what, I will continue to love and serve you, God.” Our faith is deepened in times of waiting. Our courage is honed in times of waiting. Our resolve grows stronger in times of waiting. Our trust in God becomes more sure in times of waiting. I wanted to share this song with you called “While I Wait.” It was featured in a movie called Fireproof where we follow a firefighter and his wife on the brink of divorce. As the husband seeks ways to find God for himself while showing real love to his wife, we see the progression and the road to reconciliation between these two. But it only comes through a period of waiting. [Play video]
“Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not grow weary. They shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31.) Don’t give up on God if God is telling you to wait. There may be a much greater blessing to come. Trust in God. Renew your faith in God as the life-giver of us all. Amen.