The work in waiting

Waiting. It seems like a passive activity. I mean the idea of waiting is that you aren’t actually doing anything. The waiting is what happens before or in between action.

You wait for the bus.

You wait in line at the grocery store.

You wait for the microwave to ding.

There are rooms built just for waiting and they usually involve magazines and/or TVs to help people sit quietly and…well, wait.

But of course assuming that waiting is always easy or comfortable is false. Just ask anyone who’s waited for the doctor to call with biopsy results. Or the 17 year old girl waiting for that college acceptance letter. Or the parent waiting for the phone call that her son arrived at his destination safely after flying alone for the first time.

Sometimes waiting is arduous, even agonizing.

I’ve never been particularly good at waiting. Patience does not come easily and waiting for big news, a decision, or even for my kids to get their shoes on can start to give me anxiety.

I like deadlines and predictability. I am a planner and need to know everything that’s going to happen and when. Back when I was a senior in college, my then-boyfriend and I had been dating for over 2 years and were talking about marriage. I knew he was going to propose, but not knowing when, where, or how was killing me! I would look for hidden meaning in every phone call or letter, trying to figure out his plans. Every time he came to visit me at school I would get incredibly anxious thinking this may be the day, only to be disappointed when the visit ended and there had been no proposal. Finally, one day I said, “are you EVER going to propose to me?” Just what every guy wants to hear, right?

Thankfully he didn’t scare easily and finally got down on one knee two months before graduation. We’ll be married 16 years this month.

Some things are definitely worth the agony that comes with the waiting. And some things just shouldn’t be rushed. I know this intellectually, but in my heart I struggle to be at peace in the midst of waiting.

When I was a teenager, God put a calling in my heart to be a writer. A few years later, God put another calling in my heart to serve Him in ministry, although I wasn’t sure exactly what that would look like. As I entered the great big adult world after college I applied for countless writing or editing jobs and got no response, not even an interview. And because I said yes to that proposal, I put on hold any plans to go to seminary or do missions work.

Being young and impetuous, I decided I had misunderstood that call to be a writer. And I thought maybe the calling to go into ministry was misheard, and I was really just supposed to volunteer at church more. I gave up waiting for God to reveal any more, and did the practical thing: I got a job in corporate communications and moved forward with my life as a wife and, eventually, as a mother. But every few years I would feel restless. I would start to think about those two callings I felt early on in life and wonder: what if?

Then, two years ago, I found myself in a bit of a perfect storm. I was finishing up grad school and thinking about the next chapter in my career. At the same time I was part of a group of people planting a church in our community. What had started out as a small group Bible study was turning into a new church, and God was working in my heart and spirit in big ways. For the first time in years I felt the familiar tug of that call to go into ministry.  At the same time, I had been writing for my University’s student blog and remembering how much I loved writing.

Suddenly, I felt so certain that God was saying: “Now! This is the time. This is what you’ve been waiting for!” Things moved quickly for the next few months. I started this blog, I met with an editor who showed interest in a book idea, I went to a conference and learned about book proposals and building a platform. The rate at which it all started to come together, made me certain God had something big planned for me, and it was just right around the corner.

But it wasn’t long before momentum slowed considerably. The editor I’d spoken to left the publishing house and no one could tell me what had happened to my proposal. While I continued to write for my blog, readership did not grow as I had expected. Inquiry letters to literary agents went unanswered, or I got the “thanks, but no thanks” email. I applied for all kinds of jobs at Christian schools and non-profits. But any leads I got fizzled quickly.

I started to question again if I had heard the call correctly. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to write, or maybe it was never going to be more than a “hobby”.

the waiting might just be the journeyBut while the things I thought were part of the plan weren’t happening, God also presented some unexpected opportunities in my life. My husband and I started to lead a small group Bible study. I had the opportunity to plan and lead my first (and second) women’s retreat. I was called to go on a mission trip to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. I was encouraged by my pastor to start a women’s ministry at our young church.

Then, about three months ago I was invited by some friends to join in an Experiencing God class. At first I almost declined because I felt I just didn’t have time for it. But after some prayer I decided to go forward. (I won’t go into too much detail about all the ways this class has impacted me and my spiritual walk, because it deserves a post all on its own, but let me just say I highly recommend Experiencing God to anyone seeking to know God more intimately.) A recurring theme in Experiencing God is that God will invite us to become involved with Him in His work, but it will lead to a crisis of belief, requiring both faith and action, and ultimately a major adjustment in life.

Faith and action. I’m really good at the action part, but faith requires waiting and trusting. And that is where I stumble. Because letting go of control doesn’t come naturally. And because waiting can be hard work.

I felt the call to make big changes and adjustments, and I was ready! But I couldn’t discern exactly what it was God wanted me to do. I kept waiting for some clear direction and in the waiting I grew increasingly frustrated.

Then I read something in my Experiencing God book yesterday that really hit me: “Let God use times of waiting to mold and shape your character…God’s great task is to adjust His people to Himself. It takes time for Him to shape us to be exactly what He wants us to be…The key is your relationship with God. The God who initiates His work in a relationship with you is the One who guarantees to complete it” (Blackaby, 2007).

And it finally seemed so clear. My struggle with waiting has been that I’ve always seen it as wasted or lost time, taking away from the important things, the getting on with life. Time spent in line, when I could be at home cooking a meal; time spent reading a magazine, when I could be talking to the doctor; time spent waiting to hear God’s call, when I could be out there doing His work.

In my haste to get to my destination, it never occurred to me that the waiting might just be the journey. And in the journey, there is anticipation and excitement. There is time spent with those travelling with you. In the journey there is beauty and there is joy.

Yes, there is work in waiting, but the real work isn’t mine; it’s the work God is doing in the midst of the waiting to refine me, to prepare me.

A few weeks ago I hosted the second Renew and Restore Women’s Retreat. Our verse for the weekend was Isaiah 40:31. For the retreat I used the NIV version, which says “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Then last week I discovered a slight, but poignant difference in the New King James Version of the same verse, which says:

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

So, I wait. But I wait with anticipation and excitement over what is to come. I find renewal and relationship in the midst of the wait. And I look for the beauty and the joy that is unique to this journey.

 

photo credit: sit and wait via photopin (license)

 

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11 thoughts on “The work in waiting”

  1. Hi Jelise,
    Enjoying your blogs… God is good!
    Yes, waiting… what a challenge! At 65, I am learning to flow with this loving challenge. God has wonderful, exciting challenges in store for me. He has these gifts for all of us who wait on Him, and believe in His love for us.
    Jelise, keep flowing in your walk with Him. And, keep us informed of your journey’s progress.
    Love,
    Aunt Margaret

  2. Waiting has always been a tough one for me!! I am not the fool that rushes in either but I get restless and worty etc. thanks for sharing!! I can’t wait to read your first book!!!

  3. I am so excited that I get to journey with you as you wait on our lord. What a great illustration and article of how to truly experience God and dance with joy In the midst of God unfolding “the rest of your story”. Thank you for another great article; I always look forward to them like a rich piece of chocolate!

    1. Sherri, thank you for being so instrumental in guiding and encouraging me through the waiting. I am blessed beyond measure by your friendship and support.

  4. I am so happy for you that you have found peace in the waiting!!! I know the struggle it’s been. When you started talking about waiting… I was like man I never “wait”. If I’m waiting at the dentist I am researching new jobs or while waiting for dinner to Cook I am doing the dishes, while waiting for my turn in line I am adding up my groceries to see if I busted my limit lol!!! I stay busy even in the waiting, which isn’t necessarily the best thing but it keeps me going until I get where I need to be!

  5. Patience can look like indecision to some folks who feel the need for constant action but you can learn a great deal by being still and watching. Several verses in Scripture speak to this in our relationship with Yahewh. Romans 5:3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience;
    Galatians 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
    James 1:19 Why, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
    James 5:7 Be patient therefore, brothers, to the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
    James 5:8 Be you also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws near.
    Psalms 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
    Letting the Father guide our steps at all times is difficult. As you grow older and have more perspective on events in your life you can often see his hand in things which escaped you in the beginning. I know this because I have gained the plateau of great perspective of looking back on life.(comes with age) Yahweh has had his hand on my life from the beginning always moving me in the general direction he wanted me to go so I could one day be a better servant to Him. Now with much better clarity I am able to see this because of his opening my eyes to His truths in my life. My advise to you is rejoice in the fact He is constantly refining you for his purposes. That means he still expects you to be part of his plan. Those whom he has stopped refining have stopped being part of his plan.
    As a parent you should now be seeing some of the little things you tried to teach your children, that you thought they didn’t get, showing up in the way they conduct them selves now. Little by little it sinks in over time. It is the same with us and the heavenly Father. He keeps nudging us along little by little and occasionally we get it right. Stopping, waiting, listening for his instructions, that’s patience we can all use.

    Keep listening and you will hear the voice of Yahweh showing you how to do small great things in his name.

    I’m glad you are finding your calling. Love you, Dad

  6. As always I am uplifted and encouraged by your gift Jelise as the Holy Spirit inspired you to write such rich words and your article. I am grateful to know you and to read your blog and excited to see how God unfolds your ministry. truly experiencing God bible study is sent from God above and has helped me for so many years become the person God is making me to be. thank you for sharing from your heart what we need to hear. I am reminded to keep my heart with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life. Thanks for sharing your life !

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