Friday, January 23, 2015

Don't waste the waiting

It was eleven months. Long ones. I'll acknowledge that in the spool of eternity this is only a scrap of thread. Yet waiting seems to tug extra thread from that spool, causing time to stand as still as the air of a Mississippi August. Waiting, and of course outright suffering, are two of God’s most effective chisels on the soul.

In October 2013, my heart skipped a beat with an e-mail from our office administrator—one of those good news/bad news kind of messages. The good news: The Ugandan government had approved our work permit for another year. The bad news: This permit was scrawled with the words “last”—as in, this is your last one. As we researched this, its finality seemed hazy. A few had appealed with success, but others had wheeled their belongings into a 757 and departed this country.

So much seemed to hang in the balance: Our investment of ministry and finances, language acquisition and cultural adaptation, vital relationships and family adjustments. But more than that, it felt like a dream, tied by the hands and feet, and laid on an altar of stones. Would this be the time God provided a ram, or did He have something different in mind?

There’s a fair chance you’re waiting for something too: hopeful, perhaps with fear crackling around the edges. Perhaps it’s the success of a medical treatment, the news on a job, the end of a semester or trimester, or the end of singleness. So much of life, from Heaven to the oven timer, is waiting.

This year, God seemed to be whispering that I should not waste my waiting, in its refining work for the soul.

Waiting seemed to unleash so many of my spirit’s occasionally irreverent and usually quite revealing questions, allowing them to bubble to the surface. Why would God seem to bring us to full stride in our work—His work!—here, and then pile us on a plane? Why us? What if I have to go back, and why does that make me feel so afraid? Does God’s will match my own? Does mine match His?

Waiting is a deeply spiritual work, where our faith is road-tested. It’s part of the Bible’s DNA: waiting for freedom from slavery, deliverance from exile, the fullness of time to finally bring the Promised One. Waiting for Him to finally make His kingdom come in all its fullness and staggering beauty.

Waiting is when our faith makes choices—toward trust or fear; toward my will or His. It jerks back the curtain of comfort to reveal what we are clutching to ourselves, what has become so dear that the heart feels suspended in mid-air.

For me, it was a sense of purpose, identity, and flourishing that—among all of their Godward benefits—had made themselves an idol in my heart. Mine were questions I thought I’d answered. But the waiting left them naked, exposed, bare in their faithlessness and restlessness. And during those eleven months, God walked with me, settling my soul’s unsettled parts once again, pressing them deeply into Him and all I knew Him to be.

So imagine the shriek that filled our neighborhood last October when my friend Semei ducked his dark head through our gate, bearing his trademark broad grin and waving a thin piece of paper. “I have good news!” he shouted. My heart dropped in my chest. I swallowed. Surely not, after eleven months. Could it even be over?

And yet—it is. We have permission, for now, to stay another three years. Even in leaving, I would not have been put to shame (see Psalm 25:3). But He chose to remember our family in this way, and to say, I have plans for you here. Tears leaked from my eyes as I hugged friends and jumped up and down, and as my children and I huddled to pray in thanks in the dust of our driveway.

Maybe you're waiting for something, too. If you are--don't miss the waiting.


Amanda B. said...

So well-written! This is a great post, and a great reminder!

John Majors said...

GREAT news! Thanks for writing. So great to keep up with you guys and pray for you more intentionally now as a group. We prayed for you last night. Sorry to miss you last week.