“I can’t wait until I’m in college!” fourteen-year-old Kiersten recently proclaimed. Considering she is only in ninth grade, she has a long wait ahead of her!
Kiersten, of course, is looking forward to all the fun that college seems to be: dorm life, classes strewn throughout the day as opposed to seven hours straight day after day after day, and the fun of being on her own.
Micah, on the other hand, responds with “I can’t wait until I’m out of college…” Quite fitting for my active and athletic child to whom school seems like prison and homework feels like torture. As a mere seventh grader, life after college must feel like light years away!
I’ve been thinking about waiting quite a bit lately. Not the waiting represented in the above statements made by my children. Not the normal life cycles of waiting that we all experience: waiting for summer, for our next birthday, for Christmas, for a new phone (or a first phone in the case of my kids!), for an event we are looking forward to…
But the waiting for something that may or may not happen.
Waiting on the child who is going through a phase. Waiting to see if it really is just a phase. Waiting on a difficult situation, not knowing the outcome. Waiting on someone else’s difficult situation, and feeling helpless. Waiting for something you desire greatly, and wondering if it will ever really happen. Waiting on an opportunity that may never come your way. Waiting on the pain or the struggle to go away, and wondering if it ever will. Waiting in the midst of uncertainty. Waiting on anything that may not have the outcome you want, or that may take years to come to fruition, or that may never come to fruition.
There’s a type of waiting that comes with an ache. That’s the waiting I’ve been thinking about lately.
When I think about this type of waiting, I often remember the story of a Sunday school teacher from when I was a child.
I don’t remember her name. I don’t remember her age. And I don’t remember many details. I just remember that she shared a story about prayer with us one time. I remember her telling us that she prayed for thirty years that her husband would become a Christian. Every day she would pray. Thirty years of praying. Finally, after thirty years of waiting and praying, her husband became a Christian. I remember that she told us that God doesn’t always answer our prayers right away, and that it may take years. And she shared that story. And now, more than thirty years later, I still remember that story. And her patience.
And I’m reminded that some of the things I’m praying for, that I want to happen NOW, may not happen right away. It may take years…if ever. Because I also realize that MY prayers, may not be the best way. God may or may not answer my prayers the way I want Him to. And I really don’t like that.
At the same time, I trust that if He does not answer my prayers the way I want Him to, or in the timely manner in which I would prefer, it is probably because He has a better plan. Or that maybe the waiting is part of His plan. Because sometimes it’s in the waiting that we grow. It’s in the waiting that we learn to trust Him. It’s in the waiting that we have to relinquish our plans and be open to His plans.
And I still don’t like it. Yet, in a strange sort of way I do. Because I want to rest in Him. I want Him to be the comforting all-knowing parent who says to me, “I’ve got this. Trust me.”
This past Christmas, I was struck in a new way by a fact I’m sure I’ve heard multiple times over the course of my life. During a Christmas presentation in church, one of the readings mentioned the 400 year wait between the last prophecy about the Messiah and the actual birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The topic of waiting had already been on my mind. So the reality of a “400-year wait” caught my attention.
And it was thought-provoking.
Four hundred years is a very long time. I wonder how many people had given up on the hope of a Messiah. I find myself marveling at the reality that God made promises – very clear promises – and then did nothing for 400 years. If God could wait 400 years to fulfill a promise, then I guess He could wait years to answer my prayers. And I guess I must accept the reality that I must wait. And not know. And wonder. And be frustrated. And be impatient, discouraged, disappointed, uncomfortable, unhappy. Or…hopeful.
The Israelites had to wait 40 years in the desert. Forty years of wandering. FORTY! They left Egypt, heading to the Promised Land. And they waited. And waited. And waited. And I’m sure they wondered, “Will this ever really happen? Will we ever go to the Promised Land?”
So I have to wonder what the waiting is about. God could answer any of our prayers immediately. He could have sent baby Jesus soon after the prophecies of the Old Testament. He could have led the Israelites straight into the Promised Land. He could answer my prayers NOW.
He must want us to wait.
I try to grasp this reasoning through the eyes of a parent, recognizing that God is my heavenly Father. I don’t always answer their requests right away. Although, sometimes answering them immediately may be easier for me, I know it’s not always best for them.
“Mom, I’m bored. What can I do?” When I’m patient and don’t give them answers or easy ways out of boredom, such as watching t.v. or playing with electronics, they often eventually figure something creative out on their own. Which is often way better than anything I could have suggested. And required them to think and stretch themselves.
“Mom, I want that new toy NOW!” Often if I wait, it is much more enjoyable and exciting for them to receive it later for a birthday or a special surprise. The waiting brought more enjoyment and appreciation when they finally received it.
“Mom, I can’t figure out the answer to this homework question. Can you just tell me?” If I allow them to figure it out on their own, or even just slowly guide them, they feel a bigger sense of accomplishment by working it through themselves. And they actually learn it better.
“Mom, why can’t I have an Istagram/snapchat (fill in the blank) account right now?” From my parental perspective, I want to wait until I feel like they are mature enough to handle navigating life on the web. Whether they realize it or not, I am protecting them from things they aren’t ready for and posts/pictures they may later regret posting. They may not grasp or understand this reasoning until they are older (if ever at all!).
I’m learning to trust God in the waiting. I’m learning to be open to new ways of being and living, while I wait. I’m learning that it’s okay to be uncomfortable, even unhappy, with the waiting. Because in that place of uncertainty, I have to trust in the One who knows all things. I have to look to Him with hope and anticipation and wonder and be ever-ready to hear His voice and see His handiwork, as I wait for Him to unveil His plan.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. Psalm 130:5-6