There are tons of verses in the Bible about waiting on the Lord. I know, because I found them and “claimed” them all when I was single and worrying about my biological clock ticking away while God dilly-dallied around with bringing me Mr. Right, or even Mr. Remotely Interested.
I suspect I’m not the only one who’s ever felt this way, because there’s lots of art for sale at LifeWay that illustrates these “waiting” verses, and “waiting” has been the subject of many popular Christian songs that have played on the radio over the past ten years.
We sang one of the many “waiting” songs at church on Sunday, and it got me thinking about this topic again. I’m in those tedious, anxious final weeks of pregnancy, so it’s timely for me to take a closer look at what is true (and what isn’t) about what it means to wait on God and his timing.
1. He’s not a fickle companion.
My least favorite of Christian Waiting Songs begins, “I will run to the cleft of the mountain and wait for You/Will You come meet with me?” It is completely opposite of everything that is true of God and of us to suggest that we show up and then invite him to join us. It’s absurd to imagine that we’re ever the first to arrive at the restaurant, and that we’re sometimes left at the table wondering if God is going to stand us up like an inconsiderate blind date or that scatterbrained friend who forgot she said she’d meet you for lunch.
God is always, always the initiator and the faithful party in his relationship with us. Moses didn’t “run” to the cleft of the mountain, God put him there. The story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal reminds us that our God does not need to be summoned with shouting or holy displays, that he never turns off his phone to sleep or go to the bathroom. He’s the constant, and we’re the ones who fail to draw near.
2. Waiting is not wasting time.
Nothing is more frustrating than what feels like pointless waiting. The other day I went to the wrong department of the hospital and sat for an hour before realizing that the tech I needed to see was down the hallway, wondering where I was. Sometimes traffic crawls due to lane closures for “construction” even when there are no bulldozers or workers present. I have to bite my tongue when someone gets to the front of the line at Starbucks without any idea what she wants to drink, and we all stand there while she sorts through her various options with the barista.
But God, being omnipresent, omniscient, and outside the confines of time, is an accomplished multitasker. We’re never sidelined in a plastic chair while he attends to something more pressing. If he has not given us something we’re “waiting for,” it’s because it’s not the right time for it yet. From my perspective, these last six weeks of waiting for Baby Tres feel pointless. (Weren’t we “viable” two months ago? Six more weeks of fattening for both of us just seems indulgent.) But I got to peek into the workshop again last week, to see all the little parts that God is knitting together, and I was reminded of how many little details are still coming together. His little diaphragm is still learning how to breathe in and out. His little bones are still hardening so he’ll be strong enough to push out of my body and then not get squished under his sister’s loving affections. His organs are getting close to ready, but aren’t quite mature enough for independent functioning.
It’s easy to track this in hindsight, too. I know now why God didn’t bring me “Mr. Right” when I was twenty and impatient. Like Little Tres, I still had some growing to do. (And so did Mr. Right, for that matter.) Why hasn’t God given a baby to our friends who struggle with infertility? Why doesn’t he send rain to Africa? Why hasn’t Jesus just come back already to set it all right?
The Bible reminds us that when we perceive that God is being slow to fulfill his promises, the truth is that he is simply working in ways that we do not yet see or understand. What looks to us like carelessness or tarrying is actually his patience, his wisdom, the fact that circumstances are more complicated than we realize. We have not been been forgotten or set on the back burner: we…and others…and even creation are being prepared for what lies before us when the time is exactly right.
3. Waiting is not Idleness.
As I wait for Baby Tres, I’m passing the time with some serious nesting. I’m stocking away meals in the freezer. I’m cleaning out closets, vacuuming behind the AC vents, taking unused clutter to Goodwill, organizing our digital photos and movies. I’m also trying to take every opportunity to listen to Abby’s stories, linger over Play-Doh, snuggle in the big chair as we watch Dora. In other words, there’s plenty to do in this season of “waiting” that I won’t be able to do when the time is up.
When I was in high school, I frequently heard the song “Closing Time” on the radio that reminded me that “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” And while it’s a deep thought for a song about having to leave a bar at the end of the night, it’s true none the less. So however exciting the beginning is that we anticipate, it also means the loss of certain opportunities. So whether I’m waiting for the doctor to arrive at my exam room, for the onset of labor pains, for Jesus to appear in the clouds, my challenge is to wait purposefully, thoughtfully, productively, expectantly.
Because at some point, the waiting will be over, and when it is, I want to be ready.