Learning to wait with Jesus
Lectionary readings for December 13, 2015: Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Phillipians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18
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“If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” – Romans 8:25
No matter how disciplined, organized and prayerful you are, you never outgrow waiting. Tracts of humanity wait: for a job, peace, rain, a great love, medical care, disaster relief, a spot on the team, an acceptance letter. The homeless wait for homes. Refugees wait to return home. Elderly people wait for their savings to run out.
- Abraham and Sarah wait for God’s promise and timing.
- David waits to become king.
- Habakkuk waits for God to rescue.
- Israel waits for the Messiah.
- Mary waits to find out if Joseph will marry her.
- Anna, Simeon, John the Baptist, Jesus, the people in the upper room wait.
God’s people learn to wait with God in the present moment. Because that is the only place God is found. The past with its regrets is irretrievably gone. The future with its what-ifs is out of our control. But now, right now, it is possible to be with God. It is possible to wait and say yes to God in what is. Waiting is where we learn to let go our timing in this traffic, our disappointment in this decision, our hurt in this comment. Waiting is where we learn to let go of our control and expectations, and trust that God is good no matter what is happening.
Waiting is the crucible where we develop a mellow and forgiving heart. Waiting with God is where we learn how to be happy when we don’t get our own way. It’s where we get practice in learning how to forgive reality for being different than we want. Waiting is where we learn how to forgive people for being their less-than-perfect selves, and waiting is where we learn how to forgive God for not being like a magician, a conjurer or a wizard—like Albus Dumbledore.
Waiting with God teaches us to let go of our expectations so we can receive what is given. No one has to be transformed through waiting. Waiting can turn us into demanding, angry or depressed people. But if we will embrace waiting with God, the great gift of developing a mellow, forgiving heart is ours for the taking.
Waiting doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong. It doesn’t mean God hasn’t heard you. It doesn’t mean you are wasting time. Waiting is an invitation to wait with God for the God who comes “to us like the spring rain” when it is time.
Let us acknowledge the Lord.
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth. (Hosea 6:3)
- When you end up waiting, practice letting go of your need to control. What happens? Notice what comes up while you wait and talk to God about it. You can use the time that is given—or you can waste it in fretting.
- Practice waiting by not interrupting or by allowing others to speak before you do. Ask God to help you listen more deeply to what is being said so you can respond with grace and love.
- Choose to drive in the slow lane. Write a snail-mail letter. Eat your food slowly. Take the time it takes to do these things well.
©Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. 2015. Not to be reproduced without permission. This article is adapted from revised and expanded Spiritual Disciplines Handbook (InterVarsity Press, 2015.)