Hurry up and wait

Hurry up and wait

 

Delayed

I have done my share of waiting in an airport.  I’m kind of paranoid about missing my flight, so I typically arrive really early to the airport to ensure that there is no way I can miss my flight.  In fact, when I went to Israel a few years ago, I took the train to the airport and arrived 3 hours before I could even check-in.  I believe I was there 6 hours before my flight was scheduled to take off.  So when my flight is delayed for whatever reason, I tend to have a ton of time on my hands.  I remember a number of years ago, my family and I were headed to Canada for a family vacation.  Our flight was delayed hours and hours.  To the point where our flight took off when our connecting flight was supposed to take off from Toronto.  It was certainly a lesson in patience and waiting.  I bring this up because I think the airport is where we are most acutely aware of this whole idea of waiting.  It seems normal for people to show up to the airport ready to wait with tablets at full charge and books on their kindle.  It always seems ironic because we expend so much energy to get to the airport only to end up waiting hours.  Yet isn’t this how life is sometimes?  We expend so much energy to get to a certain place in life only to find ourselves waiting for something else.  We’re waiting for that right person to come into our lives.  We’re waiting for that perfect job to come around the corner.  We’re waiting for a baby.  We’re waiting…

We’re not alone

We all know that waiting is nothing new.  As I have been reading through scripture this  year, I have been struck by the theme of waiting.  Abraham had to wait for a son.  Moses waited in exile.  Israel waited for a deliverer in Egypt and then again waited in the desert for the promised land.  You see it is a common theme throughout history.  It is a stage of life or a position that we all seem to be able to relate to.  We’ve experienced the frustration of waiting and the joy of finally being through it.  At the same time, we also understand almost implicitly that there is a distinction between waiting and waiting well.

There is a distinction between waiting and waiting well.

When someone waits well we are amazed at two qualities: their patience and their faith.  Both of these things seem to shine forth.  Think about someone you know who has waited well.  They have a faith that seems to suggest that what they are waiting for will actually happen, despite any outward appearances.  It is that hoping in what is unseen that shines forth.  Then there is the patience which is perhaps rarer than the faith.  Even those in scripture struggled with that one.  Looking at Abraham there were many times where he despaired because he was still waiting on a son.  The Israelites grumbled and complained even prior to their wandering.  Moses even struggled with depression after dealing with the complaints of Israel time and again.  Honestly, I resonate with their stories.  Think about how it must have felt for Abraham to be promised a son and yet years come and go with no sign of a son.  He was waiting for something that seemed unlikely to happen.  Been there and I’ll admit, patience wasn’t my thing.

Waiting Well

So how do we cultivate the patience and faith to wait well?  Personally, I’m always inspired by those who have this assurance.  Honestly, I think most of us probably have the desire to wait well, but the truth is that it doesn’t come naturally to us.  Our first inclination is not to have patience, but to grumble that we aren’t where we wanted to be financially, personally, or even relationship-wise.  We seem to be in a never-ending cycle of waiting and it drives us crazy.  Here are a few things that I believe help us to wait well:

  • Preparation – This may sound odd, but actually preparing in advance for what you hope for is part of waiting well.  If you’re waiting for a promotion at work, begin bettering yourself so that you’ll succeed when you’re there.  I remember a parable that was told in Facing the Giants.  (I admit it, I’m a sap and despite the terrible acting and cheesy plot, I still tear up at this movie).  The parable goes like this.  Two farmers pray for rain.  One goes out and prepares the soil and sows the seeds, the other does not.  Which one truly believed the rain would come?  When we’re praying and hoping for something, we need to show with our lives that we truly believe it will come to pass.  Waiting doesn’t necessarily mean we have to do nothing.  In fact, faithful preparation is key to waiting well.
  • Remember – This is one of the most often repeated commands in scripture.  It ranks up there with “Do not fear!”  The reason for that is simple.  If we remember, we begin to see God’s faithfulness over the course of our lives.  We often lose sight of what has happened and get focused only on the present circumstances without seeing all the things that God has done.  The Israelites are a prime example of the problem of forgetting.  They saw God do amazing things in Egypt and led them out, but then didn’t believe that God would provide for them.  When we remember we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and all the times where He has come through for us in the past.
  • Seek God – Sometimes we miss out on an opportunity because our eyes weren’t open to it.  We were so focused on waiting that we were blind to the fulfillment of it in front of us.  We let opportunities go by because we aren’t certain or are waiting for that ‘perfect’ fit.  Seeking God, helps provide the discernment we need in the midst of our waiting.

Waiting is part of life, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t live while we wait.  We need to wait well with patience and faith.  When we do that, we inspire others to do the same.  When we wait well, we find that God is faithful to uphold his promises to us.

 

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Rest in Thee

Good intentions

As part of my goals for the year, I decided to go through the bible in a single year which has gone fairly well.  Additionally, I wanted to write a blog each week to talk about things I’m learning or relearning or seeing with new eyes.  It is now March and this is the first blog entry of the year…  Clearly that has gone less well.  This is what happens so many times with our goals and resolutions right?  We have great intentions out of the gate, but suddenly lose steam or life happens or we get distracted by other desires and we’re suddenly off our intended course.  The interesting truth is, for many of us, our dedication to our resolutions seems to mirror the beginning of scripture.

The bible begins with this beautiful creation and this intimate and wonderful relationship with God.  It is a picture where longings don’t exist because they are fulfilled in abundance with God.  It is a place where the relationship between humankind and creation is in perfect balance and the relationship between husband and wife flourishes vibrantly.  Yet amid this, there lies a temptation.  A temptation to find our value and worth in other things and other places.  It is the temptation to find fulfillment in things other than God, to find our worth and value in the things of the created world.  These become the false and inadequate identities that we carry with us through life.  It is these that create those inner longings.

What happened?!

As I was reading the early passages of Genesis again, I was struck by a curious fact.   In Genesis 1, we hear God say that humankind is made in the image of God.  In other words, we as humans bear God’s image to the world, we are like God.  Yet, the serpent makes this bold claim concerning the tree in the center of the Garden.  He says that it will make us “like God.” It is subtle.  The serpent is creating doubt in the hearts of humankind.  It makes us question ourselves and our true identity as image-bearers.  Are we really like God or are we perhaps lacking in some area?  When we view the creation story in this fashion we realize that we are not so far removed from it.  These are the very doubts and questions that we wrestle with daily, “Am I enough?  Do I measure up?  Am I worthy of love?  Is there something that I’m lacking?”  These questions, these doubts, nag at us and often cause us to respond, they get us to desire things that we don’t need on the off-chance that they might be what we’re looking for.  They cause us to prioritize things as urgent and important because when we do them, we will be made whole and valuable.  They cause us to put off writing a blog for 2+ months because the other things are “more important.”

It is unfortunately the story of humanity isn’t it?  We search for those things that will somehow make us happier or will offer us fulfillment.  After Adam and Eve eat of the fruit, the next several chapters point to a continued striving after false identities.  It descends quickly into evil things and pride enters in so that people consider nobody but themselves.  Yet, in the end, none of these things are truly satisfying.  We can look at the world today and see this truth in the lives of many.  Despite having everything, there are many who continue to live dissatisfied lives.  We pursue things for our ends and are confused when they don’t work out or that they don’t fulfill us like we thought they would.  The reality is that we need to remember our true identity is image bearers of God.  That is where true fulfillment and contentment is found.  As St. Augustine put it, “Our hearts are restless until we find rest in thee.”

Augustine

Strategies for removing false identities

So what do we do?  How do we recover our identity as image-bearers?  How do we “find rest in God”?  Here are some things that have helped me over the years.

  1. Mentors – This is the number one thing that I have found to be helpful.  By having a mentor that knows you, they’re able to sense when you are pursuing something out of pride or selfishness.  My mentors have been that constant source of guidance that have enabled me to get a good idea of when I’m pursuing my own ends rather than pursuing God.
  2. Journaling – This is one of those spiritual disciplines that can be a challenge for some, but I have found that when I’m journaling, I’m able to be honest with my feelings. I’m able to figure out where those feelings are coming from and the more I probe them the more I realize how often they come from a place of insecurity or my own pride.  So much happens during the day that processing it in the moment is a challenge, journaling slows it down and aids the process.
  3. Giving – I don’t write a lot on giving, because let’s face it it’s one of those sensitive issues that people seem to react strongly against. Yet in this context it is a powerful discipline because it forces us to find our faith outside of our income or our time.  it forces us to have faith in God’s provision.  It also limits our ability to have faith in things outside of God.
  4. Daily time with God – This is one of those things that I could repeat in every single post. When we put ourselves before God we become aware of our truest identity.  We recognize that we are God’s children and that he is well pleased with us.  I know that when my time in scripture is consistent and my prayer life is doing well, I find that the other identities have less hold on me which leads to a more abundant life.

We can’t afford to let false identities go unchecked.  If we do, they will continue to draw us further and further away from our truest identity as children of God.  It will require honest and open reflection in our lives and the assurance that God knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us unconditionally.  When we rest in that identity, we begin to find the strength and will to help others do the same.