It started out as a great Saturday with my family… and ended with me yelling at my kids and stomping down to the basement to watch sports alone.
And it’s all part of what God is doing in my life right now. Part of the way I am learning to follow Jesus more closely as a disciple.
Here’s how it went down:
Saturdays are for family
Saturdays are family day for us. We started out by watching my 7-year-old daughter triumphantly win her soccer semi-final game (which some parents and coaches seem to take far more seriously than I do! Probably because my daughter’s “pro” prospects are not really in soccer.)
Then we hopped in the car and headed to the Renaissance Festival, or as my 14-year-old son called it, “Disney World for Adult Nerds.” We had a great time watching jousting, eating food we shouldn’t eat and people-watching all day long.
Then we decided to meet my sister and her three kids at a local restaurant for dinner. We arrived and were told it would be a few minutes before our table was ready.
Those few minutes turned into an hour, which with five hungry, fidgety kids, feels like seven hours!
Learning to wait… for bad service
This is a normal thing, having to wait at a restaurant on a Saturday night when you have a big party.
But here’s what I noticed: I quickly became impatient, frustrated, and angry. My out-of-proportion emotions were telling me that something wasn’t right in my heart.
We finally sat down, the service was terrible, and we waited another hour before food arrived.
By the time we left I was furious. I was harsh with my kids during dinner, and when we finally left and got home I immediately retreated to the basement to watch football.
I had allowed a small moment of inconvenience destroy my night. What’s up with that?
Learning to wait in every area of life
I am really bad at waiting. Far too often I allow my attitude toward waiting to destroy my hope, joy and sense of the future. This expresses itself not just in family moments like Saturday, but in every area of my relationship with God.
Over the last three years God has placed our family right in the center of a season of waiting. It feels to me like a never-ending desert between where I am now and where I want to be in the future.
My fears, anxieties, lack of faith and lack of dependence on the Father have revealed gaping wounds and huge gaps between who God calls me to be and who I am now.
I want to fight the waiting, then I want to flee the waiting, then I want to coerce the waiting into something tangible that I can control.
Over the last few years, I have realized how hard it actually is for me to wait on God. My tendency is to act, and I often short-circuit the work God is doing in me in an effort to get to the work he wants to do through me.
Who am I if I’m not busy?
We’ve talked about the problem of busyness when it comes to discipleship, but I’m struck by how difficult my life feels when I’m not busy.
In fact, the reason I stay busy is because I don’t like how I feel when I’m not producing, creating, doing the work that I want to do in the way I want to it. When I’m forced to just be present in the moment to where I’m at.
I feel the need to “be where the action is” and I use God’s call to productivity as an excuse to never be still, never not be producing something. God has clearly called me to wait, but it’s really hard for me.
God is working in the waiting
Lately I’ve been drawn to the classic Advent scriptures that speak of the faithful waiting of Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Simeon and Anna.
All people who desperately wanted change. Who wanted justice. Who wanted God to act. Who waited for God to act.
I started to ask what it is that they understood that I don’t right now. How were they able to patiently wait for decades for God to move when I can’t seem to wait a few days?
I’m starting to learn that something is happening in the waiting. God is not absent in the waiting. What they understood is that he has not forgotten them in their waiting but that he had planted a seed, and that seed was growing up from the ground of their own patience.
I started to wonder how my waiting would change if I actually believed that something was happening in my waiting. That in my lack of productivity, God was producing something in me.
A seed has already been planted, something has already begun that will someday grow up into something beautiful in my life. I’m learning that learning to wait is actually saving my life.
So I have begun, slowly, hesitantly and sometimes fighting and screaming to believe that somewhere in my waiting God wants to address me. Somewhere in my waiting there is hope.
Learning how to wait
Maybe you struggle with the same kinds of temptations. Here are some practices I am trying to integrate in my own life. Maybe they’ll be helpful for you.
Stopping before going
When I feel the impulse to get ahead of God or move forward into areas I’m not sure the Father is calling me, I stop and pray, refusing to move until I am sure he is calling me.
Simply being aware of this tendency is a first step towards healing. I am becoming more aware of this impulse to GO, and learning to not automatically trust it.
Whenever I feel fear, anxiety, or the pressure to act, I am using those moments to stop, slow down and take stock. I ask God to reveal my motivation and what he’s asking of me.
Just not doing what I would normally do without thinking is a first discipline.
When I find myself in situations that I can’t control, I remember that Jesus positioned himself there also. Especially in Gethsemane and on the cross, he allowed himself to be out of control in order to pursue the Father’s work.
Sometimes the toughest part about waiting is the surrender of control. I am learning to explore my impulse to control and asking God to meet me there. I am paying attention to the moments where I want to control uncontrollable situations and I am resisting the temptation to move.
I am trusting the even in the middle of my desert season that God is working, that a seed has been planted and that when it blooms it will reveal a beautiful promised land that was worth the wait. Pray for me!
How about you? Have you ever found yourself in a season of waiting? What have you learned? What questions do you still have?