Jeremiah 29: 11 For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations.
Isaiah 30: 21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
Exodus 24: 12 The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”
Psalms 25: 5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
Romans 8: 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
You can get so confused that you’ll start into race down long winding roads as a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place, THE WAITING PLACE….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. Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting. NO! That’s not for you! Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing. Oh The Places You Will Go – Dr. Seuss.
I get a real rush when God reveals something new. I love learning God’s lessons. Sometimes, though, I wonder if my feeble mind is capable of absorbing any more information. I remember studying for my comprehensive exams for my doctorate. I was facing three five-hour essay exams. Somehow, I had to digest and organize years of graduate courses. There were moments I thought the task was impossible. My brain could not possibly hold one more fact, concept, or logical argument. There were moments that I seriously worried that my head might actually EXPLODE. It was a very painful process. God’s lessons are sometimes like that. These are periods of intense learning. I have been in the midst of such a time. The question is not “Have I learned everything God has to teach?” But rather, “Am I capable of receiving what God is revealing?” The amazing thing about God’s lessons is that they always come with a freshness. With each new insight, I am astounded by the renewal of my soul that the revelation brings. I do admit, however, that some lessons are more energizing than others. One lesson, in particular, is very difficult to get excited about: The lesson of The Waiting Place.
The old saying is that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Most people get a nice warm fuzzy feeling when they hear that God has a plan. We Christians love to quote Jeremiah 29, “For I know the plans I have for you … plans for welfare.” Man, we get pumped when we hear those words. I’m talking shouting time here. AMEN! But when we hear “Wait,” we sulk and pout and fret and ask, “Why!?” Wait must be the most irritating, frustrating, and down-right aggravating word in the English language. This aversion to waiting is not universal. Many societies are puzzled by the American hectic fast-paced life. My travels in Russia showed me quite a different way of life. In Russia waiting is an art form. Russians wait for buses, wait for stores to open, they wait in lines forever it seems. NOT us, we want to go, do, learn, grow, anything but wait. We have fast food, cell phones, high speed internet, drive through laundries. We don’t want to wait for anything.
The great American philosopher, Dr. Seuss, tells us that the Waiting Place is a “most useless place.” God, however, has a very different perspective on waiting. I was surprised how many times the word wait appears in the Bible. Over and over again God is telling people to wait. God tells us to “Be still,” “wait,” “and know that I am God.” When God tells me to “wait,” I usually respond with, “Do I have to?” I mean, is waiting really necessary? God is a mighty, powerful God. He doesn’t have to wait. Why did he tell Moses to climb up some mountain and wait? God was one-hundred percent capable of reaching down from Heaven and handing the tablets of law to Moses right then and there. To me that seems to be a much more efficient way of doing things. Why bother with all of this waiting? I can just see God shaking His head as He replies, “The waiting is for you, not for me.” “The waiting is for me?” I can understand the words but I struggle with understanding. What is this waiting stuff really all about?
The first thing to understand about waiting is that waiting is not a passive, laborious, useless endeavor. When God tells us to wait, He expects us to be attentive, alert. When Jesus led His disciples to the garden on the night of His arrest, He told them to wait while He prayed. Jesus scolded the disciples when He found them sleeping. “Can’t you wait with me?” When we wait on God, it should be a time of anticipation and readiness. My father in law used to have this dog that loved to fetch. She would run after sticks, tennis balls, old rubber hoses, it really did not matter. If someone threw it, she would go get it. Once the game starts, if you were holding the tennis ball (her favorite) she would stand there in front of you, every nerve in her body alert. Her muscles coiled ready to move, waiting for the opportunity to chase that ball. That is what God wants. He wants us alert, ready, anticipating His command to go.
The second insight into waiting starts when we realize that as mere humans, we will go until we drop. It doesn’t matter where we are going as long as we are going. We will, to once again quote the good Dr. Seuss, go “down long winding roads as a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space.” We will run as far and as fast as we can run and the next thing we know is that we have no idea where we are or how we got there. God tells us to wait, to “be still,” so that we will have direction in our going. God cannot reveal His plan to us unless He can get our attention. We cannot hear the still small whisper through the din of pagers, cell phones, and the screeching of tires. Another problem with our going is that too many times God tells us to go and do, but we say,” Thanks God, I’ll take things from here.” Then, instead of doing God’s will, we are doing our will. We end up going and doing things God never intended for us to go or do. If God says “Go!,” by all means go, but do only the thing He has told you to do and as soon as the task is complete run back to God and wait.
The third aspect of waiting is the place to which God has led me: wait for God’s time. God has a time, a moment, for everything in His plan. We humans have a hard time understanding why things happen when or how they happen. The reason for this difficulty is that we can’t see the entire picture; it’s a problem of perspective. A co-worker introduced me to a little computer game, the object of which was to turn on all the “lights” in a square grid. After a few probing attempts, I was able to solve the puzzle. To anyone watching the solution, it appears as if I am making a series of random, senseless, and even repetitive moves. The difference is a matter of perspective, I know the pattern. I have learned when to make what moves. God’s plan is like that. The major difference is that God is trying to get all of the “lights” on by playing millions of different games at the same time. The moves that God makes must be accurate and must be carried out with precise timing. If we allow Him, God prepares us to carry out certain tasks. The training may be long and arduous, but God makes sure we are ready. Then when the moment is right, and only when the moment is right, even if we wait for days, months or even years, when that moment arrives, God says, “Go get’em kid!”
When I first wrote these words, God had led me to the Waiting Place. I had just gone through a very intensive growth spurt and I finished my doctorate. God had hammered and shaped my spirit through various trials. I knew then that I had not learned everything that God was to teach me, but God was telling me, “You are ready. I have prepared you for the task at hand. There is only one thing left for you to do: wait!”
If I had only known then what was in store. Wonderful days as a father watching my sons grow into young men, rewarding years working with incredible people, but also stinging disappointments and loss. In many ways, I am still waiting but that is ok. I will keep working and preparing for whatever comes next.