Just reading the title, you may already be humming a little John Mayer (welcome to the last few days of my life). Or, if your word associations tend toward the realistic, you may have just started the mental list of things you are in fact currently waiting for – that Amazon package, an upcoming holiday, or your child to put on their shoes. Still humming, my brain tends toward a poem read to me as a child and now requested by my children from Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go.
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 a 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.
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.
If you’ve lived in Wales for more than a week, you’ll certainly be able to relate to ‘waiting for the rain to go.’ And if you’ve ever had a job interview, you’ll probably be familiar with ‘waiting for a Yes or a No’. You may be waiting right now or perhaps breathing that sigh of relief at escaping the Waiting Place. But the mysterious nature in which Dr. Seuss pens the escape is far less shrouded for those of us that know and follow Jesus. For us, ‘The Waiting Place’ doesn’t have to be quite so ominous, it is not ‘a useless place’ as described in the line preceding this poem, and we need not move on from it before joining in with those Boom Bands.
In fact, our waiting (while sometimes tiring and emotionally taxing) can be full of booming praise. Psalm 33:20-22 says ‘Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.’ Before the waiting, in the waiting, after the waiting – He is LORD. He is faithful; He is trustworthy; He is our hope; He is our salvation. He has promised that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). We can rest assured that He is at work while we wait. That hope makes our hearts glad and our glad hearts overflow in praise because Jesus is worthy.
This kind of waiting mingled with praising has had me singing another song in recent weeks. The bridge says “in the waiting, you get the glory”. Let’s turn our waiting places into praising places where we declare ‘you get the glory’. Have a listen and be encouraged.
But what about the sometimes tiring, emotionally taxing part of the waiting? Is that just glossed over with all that praise? We do still have the emotions and we can still get tired of waiting – we are human after all. In spite of that, those of us who follow Jesus are equipped to wait well.
I, like almost all of you, have prayed and waited for years and years and years for a family member to return to God. This waiting was a cycle of excitement, hope and fervent prayer, followed by disappointment and frustration at seemingly nothing happening. But God spoke to me through Psalm 23. In verse 5, we’re assured that God has prepared a table before us in the presence of our enemies. He showed me that everything I needed was on the table for me to pick up. He would show me how to speak life, to pray faithfully, to handle my disappointment and to continue trusting as I waited for him to move. All the while, He was working something out in me as I waited on Him – a dependence through the waiting, a trust in Him despite the feeling of disappointment, a hope in Him that what I asked in His name could come now.
We’re all invited to this table by a loving Father. He says we begin seated at His table – not an empty table, but one prepared before us. There is so much on this table; everything we need to wait well in every situation, not just the one I described. There is self-control which is already inside of us by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is peace before anxiety could even come. There is joy in the Lord as our daily, even hourly strength. There is salvation purchased by the blood of Jesus. There is everything we need to wait well, which looks to us and the watching world like Psalm 27:13-14 ‘I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.’
The last ten years of my life have been full of international travel and I’ve come to describe the experience as ‘Hurry Up and Wait’. Wake up obnoxiously early, rush around to pack those last minute toiletries, constantly subtract the estimated arrival time from the “totally necessary three hours prior to flight” time, rush through security and then… wait. Wait for the gate number to be posted. Wait to board the plane. Wait for the seat belt sign to turn off. Wait for your baggage. You get the picture. But waiting as a follower of Jesus is not at all a ‘Hurry Up and Wait’ kind of experience. Rather it’s a ‘Keep on Moving While You Wait’ experience.
As a young mother, I became stationary waiting for a specific season of difficulty to end. Frustration at the lack of change kept me stuck and focused on my need. God, in His goodness, spoke to me twice reminding me of who He is and getting me going again. When I asked him why he wasn’t doing anything to change my situation, he humbled me with 8 simple words, “What makes you think I’m not doing anything?” Bringing me back to the place of resting and trusting in Him, he prompted me to get moving in His purposes again by giving me three specific tasks. God used tired, waiting for a change, overwhelmed me to do something for Him: meet a practical need in the church family, show His love and care to a friend, and introduce a stranger to Jesus! There’s always a way God will keep us moving forward while we wait.
After all, “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) Remember that table He has prepared? It’s also a table full of good works! In the waiting, there’s praising and growing and giving to do. That’s the kind of waiting I want to grab hold of in every area of my life!