Wait may seem like such a simple word but context is everything. Being told to wait at Starbucks might be frustrating but it probably isn’t life altering. However, in the course of preparing for ministry or other life changes, the word wait is fully loaded. I have many friends who have been told to wait or forced to wait when preparing to leave for overseas work. This in-between time is usually filled with frustrations and unexpected joys. I know this first hand because I too was told to wait when preparing for Papua New Guinea and currently, as I prepare for the next step, I find myself once again in a place of waiting. This post is written with prayers and empathy for all those who have ever been told to wait.
In September 2007 I wrote a newsletter talking about having been told to wait and what I had been learning through the process. Here is an excerpt from that letter: Everything seemed to be in order and I was ready to move forward, raising support and finalizing plans to be on the field in January 2008…Then they recommended that I postpone my field work for an entire year…I was told, “This is not ‘no’, this is wait.”…During this time I contemplated many options but no other direction seemed even remotely satisfying. Through silence, prayer, good counsel, and a myriad of Christian literature, I began to see glimpses of something outside of myself…Ever since I graduated high school my life has been in warp speed… I have never taken the time to stop and listen to the One who ultimately created the universe that I enjoy. Being told to wait was difficult to accept, but it has forced me to take the time and capitalize on an opportunity to closely examine myself and my motivations…The past two months have been frustratingly wonderful. I am now even more confident that I have a heart and passion for working in PNG. My excitement has been renewed and I am ready to actively wait…Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked “How much of life is lost in waiting?” In response I say: although there is much to be lost, there is more to be gained and good things are worth the wait. I am on my journey with a better idea of where I am and a willing spirit to go where I am called.
As I read this letter, I see a hope and an innocence in myself. I am so thankful that my plans were put on hold so that God’s plans could take over. I had no idea what was before me in PNG and I remember many tears and frustrated days because I was “ready”. But looking back at my first 6 months in PNG, I was so far from ready. Even as it was, I struggled through the first three months of training and without the amazing support of others probably wouldn’t have made it through my first assignment that failed miserably. And as it turned out, arriving when I did made my first two years fit perfectly with the STEP training course. It also allowed me time over Branch Conference to still serve while sitting behind the scenes and healing from the failed working relationship. I can see each piece of the puzzle now that fit because it was placed there with a purpose in God’s perfect timing.
I like to think of this world as God’s orchestra. He is both composer and conductor. He’s already written the entire piece, history from the beginning to the end, and yet he still stands before us, directing us as we play. Each of us has our own instrument, a part of the whole. Sometimes we wait while others play, sometimes we play melody, sometimes harmony, sometimes we have a solo and all together it makes something beautiful. We can’t always hear everything because of where we sit but he can and we have to trust his ear and his direction. This metaphor may not be appealing to a lot of people because it shows us giving up a huge amount of control. But I am under no allusion that I can control everything. Who would I rather have making decisions? The One who knows everything, past, present and future? Or my mortal, shortsighted self?
For me, giving up that control is what makes the waiting bearable. If I trust only in my own wisdom and knowledge, I can never be sure about the decisions I make. However, there is great freedom in saying that I can trust that He knows the future, He knows me and wants what’s best for me. As His creation, I can rest in His goodness and who He is, even when I can’t see past myself.
In my letter from 2007 I declare at the end that I am ready to actively wait. I am very pleased with my 23 year old self who recognized that there is a difference between just letting things happen to you and actively pursuing a path while waiting on God’s timing. I still love the idea that waiting doesn’t have to be passive. At this point, I am waiting on God for wisdom and direction but I am actively waiting. Each conversation I have, each presentation I do, each place I stay, each day I spend reading, each trip I take, is all part of the journey.
Psalm 27 is a beautiful reminder of the emotional ups and downs, and the frustrations and joys of the Christian life. David is in a dangerous place, surrounded by enemies and yet he is asking for wisdom and seeking God’s face. He finds comfort in the Lord’s presence and in the act of worshiping Him. But even David knows the power in waiting as he declares, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
For all my friends who have ever been told to wait, seek refuge with the One who has already written the end of the story. Open your eyes so you can see the unexpected joys and blessings that come with obedience and being in a place you wouldn’t have chosen for yourself. Look back at His past faithfulness and rejoice in what He has already done. Know that some days will be frustrating but channel that emotion into worship. When it doesn’t make sense, trust in the character of God because He is perfect and unchanging. Be strong and let your heart take courage. Wait for the Lord!