If this line of our prayer had fallen on any month last year, I would have talked about waiting for the sale of our house and the purchase of a new one. Or I could have pulled up an article I wrote years ago about waiting for God to answer prayer. And I know that our prayer specifically speaks to waiting for God to give the okay, to open the doors, to allow us to get to where we can’t wait to go. But I’m going to take a different angle on the topic of waiting because most of my waiting lately has been done in travel.
A friend described traveling as an experience of “hurry up and wait.” We prepare, pack, load the vehicle, rush out the door, only to sit in traffic. We get to the airport, and then wait in the check-in line. We run down the hall, to wait in the security line. Then we wait to board the plane, then wait to take off. We wait for the plane to fly to its destination, then we wait to disembark, to have our passports stamped, for our luggage to appear, for the ride home and perhaps we wait once again in traffic.
While walking rather briskly through the airport to wait in yet another line, I saw an advertisement asking, “What are you waiting for?” Life is full of waiting. A quick google search revealed we spend approximately 45 minutes of every day waiting (except of course while traveling, which ends up being the entire trip). We wait for:
the coffee to brew the casserole to cook the water to boil our children to get ready the light to turn green our turn to check out the next vacation a visit with family the visa application to be accepted to get to the mission field the medication to work the test results the correct diagnosis our body to heal to start the ministry we dream of for a spouse a loved one to change a conflict to be resolved justice to be served the verdict to be decided God to fulfill his promise
While waiting on my trip, I looked around at others waiting. Most were gazing at cell phones but some just sat and some tried to sleep. While on the plane, I watched endless movies to pass the time. It helped that I had someone to wait with. Together we could talk and laugh. But mostly we just waited, just wanting it to be over with. We viewed it as a necessary means to an end, an annoyance that we had to endure. We just wanted to get on with it, get it out of the way. Truthfully, I only gave my wait some thought because I knew I had to write this devotional. Looking back, I think I wasted my wait.
Waiting feels hard because it delays that which I want so badly, but it is good for me. Waiting can teach me many things.
Waiting is about giving up control and letting go.
Almost every part of my travel was dictated by someone else—the time of the flight, when it actually took off, when I was fed, who I sat by, at times even where I sat. My only choices were deciding to get on the plane, sometimes picking my seat, what movie to watch, and when to go to the bathroom! Being at the mercy of others isn’t easy but it is a good practice. It teaches me to trust others—the pilot, the ground crew, the mechanics, the attendants, even the one who will meet me at the other end. And more importantly, it increases my trust in my Heavenly Father because ultimately, the only one who can ensure that I will make it safely to my destination is my God.
Waiting forces me to slow down and live in the present.
Waiting teaches me to not be in such a hurry. It makes me stop running at a thousand miles an hour and gives me the chance to look around and consider the present. I notice what is happening around me now. I see who else is here with me in the wait. I consider how I might be able to help another right now. I find something to enjoy about this current moment. I see things I would otherwise miss. I can either wait, staying in the present, appreciating now, or I can put life on hold while waiting for that thing I want in the future.
Waiting gives me an opportunity to listen.
Sitting at the gate or on the plane left me alone with my thoughts. Mostly I filled them with movies and mindless distraction, but at times, I turned my attention to The Lord, prayed for loved ones, talked to God. Once while drifting off, I heard God’s prompting of how to act in a difficult situation. It is in the quiet moments that we hear his still small voice. Waiting can be one of those precious times.
Waiting also reminds me that I don’t have to fill every moment of every day with busyness or productivity.
I sometimes feel that by waiting, I am doing nothing and thus not making a valuable contribution. Sitting on a plane for 14 hours seems like wasted time. But waiting can be very active since I still make choices. I can choose if I am going to be still and make the most of the wait, or if I am going to stew and be frustrated and waste even the waiting. Even in my seeming inactivity, I am resting, being still, giving God time to work, allowing time for events to fall into place, taking time to smell the roses, so to speak.
I now wonder why I was in such a hurry to get on with life, get to the next thing. Getting home meant house work, cooking meals, appointments, bills, responsibilities. Traveling meant a change of pace, the joy of seeing new places and meeting old and new friends, of having an excuse to put off some tasks and responsibilities. The house can wait, the cleaning can be put off, why deal with traffic? Slow down and enjoy.
I now also reflect on my heart attitude as I waited. At times, I was anxious to make sure we were at the gate in time. I worried when my husband disappeared without telling me where he was going. I felt annoyed when the woman, with child and elderly father in tow, boldly walked to the front of the passport line without taking her turn. I was discontented as I scanned the various lines to see which one moved faster, trying to strategically speed things up. Not always was I patient.
My example is Abraham who waited many, many years for God to fulfill his promise of an heir, a nation and a land. Hebrews 6:15 says “Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.” The author of Hebrews considered that Abraham waited patiently. Even with the hiccup of Haggai and the birth of Ishmael, Abraham waited patiently! This gives me hope. I don’t feel like I wait so patiently sometimes. I have been in a fetal position on the floor weeping at times. I have been frustrated and anxious. I have been dissatisfied with my present position. I have tried to take control. I have not appreciated the present. And yet, after times of tears, confession, journaling and crying out to God, I continue to wait. I think that is enough. That is waiting.
I find it interesting and comforting that God also waits. Isaiah 30:15, 18 says, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it (NIV). Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him” (NKJV).
God waits…for us…to repent, to let go of the reins of our life, to trust him, to make the choice to do good, to be still and listen, to appreciate the present. As he waits for us, let us wait for him.
What are some things you are currently waiting for?
How can you let go of the control of your life?
What about your present can you notice and appreciate?
Have you taken time to listen to God during your wait? What is he saying to you?
How can your inactivity in waiting be valuable?
How is your heart attitude as you wait?
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