Okay, I have asked this question before, but it begs asking again - how many of you actually enjoy waiting? In this whole wide world, I don't think there are very many people who would respond, "Oh, sign me up for that one! I love to wait!" Most of us struggle with the wait - it starts in our infancy and continues into our adulthood. Diapers demanded changing - not on Mom's schedule, but on ours. Tummies needed filling - not always in the timeframe others were "hungry". As we got a little older, boys weren't attracted to girls or girls to boys as fast as we'd have liked. Blemishes seemed to take an eternity to disappear, but appeared totally without warning seemingly overnight! As we moved into adulthood, there was this concept of "putting in our time" before anything like an advancement came. All this hurry up and wait business just lends to the frustration we feel with waiting. When our waiting involves what God has to do for us, and not what we could be doing for ourselves, we get even more frustrated, don't we?
I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip. He taught me how to sing the latest God-song, a praise-song to our God. More and more people are seeing this: they enter the mystery, abandoning themselves to God. (Psalm 40:1-3 MSG)
Sometimes we don't think anything at all is happening when the waiting occurs. It seems like there is no movement and this is frustrating. What we fail to recognize is something I have observed with the use of a pre-treat spray for the stains in my clothing. If I spray it on and immediately put it in the washer with water and detergent, the stains don't always come out. But...if I wait just a little while, I often see the stain beginning to fade even before it hits the laundry tub! What happened in the waiting? The thing which was so stubbornly resistive began to break-down. I wonder if this isn't a little bit of what happens in the "waiting period" with God. He allows the outward, and sometimes even the inward circumstances to press against what needs to move in us!
As I have said before, waiting periods are often the times when we are being "set up" for our greatest opportunities for growth. It may not seem like it at first, but the growth comes in direct correlation to the wait. If you have ever planted anything, one thing you know is the time it takes for any sign of growth to actually occur. Until the first little hint of growth begins to crack through the soil, you have absolutely know idea what is happening in this time between planting and "evidence" of growth. In the process of getting to the open spaces above the soil, the seed has a whole lot of pressures under the soil exerting themselves upon that little seed. In the period between planting and breaking forth, the pressures actually help to produce the growth. The pressure of the soil against the tough outside "shell" of the seed has to breakdown a bit before the water will be able to nourish it, right? The soil holds the water against the seed's outer coating long enough, and with just enough pressure to begin to break down the "toughness" of the shell.
The one waiting to see growth above the surface often forgets about what is taking place just a short distance from where the first hint of growth will begin to appear. No one plants a seed thinking it will not grow. It is just like me pre-treating my clothes before I was them - I expect the stain to be gone when it comes out of the washer. If I think the stain is a little more stubborn than the run-of-the-mill stain, I might even pre-treat, then apply a little more outward "pressure" by scrubbing it a little with my hands before it goes into the laundry tub. Why? Sometimes the pressure needs to be a little harder on those things which are more resistant. God often asks us to do some things in the period of waiting - some of them will actually assist us in realizing the growth he desires to see. When we realize he does his part, but we also need to do whatever part he asks of us, we find our growth experience is much more enjoyable!
Here are just some quick tips for the seasons of waiting:
- Complaining doesn't lessen the wait. In fact, it often increases the pressure. It is better to admit we are struggling with the waiting, asking God to change our attitude, than it is to pluck our seed up and go home!
- Faith is built not so much by what we know to be true, but by what we begin to experience to be true. Nothing related to faith ever seems to come in the packages marked "instant", does it? When we rely upon what we know to be true, we often begin to take steps to believe what we cannot see. Just as we plant the seed believing it will grow into a healthy little plant, our faith is built by "planting" what we know, then relying upon what we know to help us experience even greater things in the time between knowing and "seeing".
- Some of the waiting time is really to allow the pressure to build up a little because we have some stuff which only gets to the place it should be because some type of pressure moved upon it. Rather than resist the pressure, we must learn to see the pressure as a thing which actually begins to breakdown what otherwise would remain immovable. Just sayin!