It has been a week of waiting. Waiting in the looooong line at the coffee shop. Waiting on the curb for my late ride. Waiting on the phone for the customer no-service rep. Waiting in doctors' lobbies. Waiting on test results. Waiting to hear from the Lord. Waiting for someone I love to make a very important decision. Waiting.
I expect to have some periods of waiting in life. I am human, and I deal with other humans daily. We are finite in our ability to multi-task, and therefore, some things must wait. I understand this at the grocery store, at the coffee shop, at the doctor's office.
My daughter is also learning this truth. She wants a peanut butter sandwich. I have my hands elbow-deep in soapy dishwater. So she waits. She waits for me to rinse that last dish, to wipe off my hands, to get out the bread and jar, to spread the PB on the wheat bread, to cut it into little triangles, and (finally) to place it in her "spot" at the table.
I understand that waiting is all a part of living in this fallen world. But here's what I don't understand: waiting on God.
He's not human. He is not finite in His abilities. If he wanted, he could examine a patient, ring up some apples, steam a cappuccino, wash dishes, and cut the crust off a Peanut Butter sandwich - all at the same time! (Not to mention raising/setting the sun, giving me breath, and preparing the earth for His return.)
But if that is true - if He is able to do everything at once without delay - that means that He chooses to delay His answers. We wait on Him because He has decided that we should wait.
That's a hard pill for me to swallow sometimes.
Why would a God "who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" choose to delay His answers... to make us wait?
And the thing is this - many times, when I am called to wait on the Lord, it's not a pleasant place. Here's what I mean: in a Christian walk, there are times that are refreshing and restful. There are times when our walk is easy and there's soft grass beneath our feet. But these are rarely the places where the Lord chooses to tarry. No, He usually chooses our waiting room to be in the desert - where it's hot and difficult and painful beneath our feet.
But why? Is there purpose in the waiting?
For this answer, I think of a time in my life when waiting was perhaps the scariest thing I have ever done. I was 5 months pregnant in a plane on my way back from Memphis. We had arrived at Atlanta ahead of schedule, but as we began our decent into the city, the engines revved up and we began to climb again. The pilot came over the intercom and said, "It looks like we're going to be circling for a little while. Please remain seated and keep your seat belts fastened as we may be experiencing some turbulence."
Turbulence, my friends, was an understatement. That plane jumped and shook and plummeted and climbed. It was impossible to see how far up we were because, upon looking out the window, all we could see was the black cloud of a storm front that had just rolled into our area.
For over an hour, I prayed and quoted scripture as I white-knuckled my arm rest and tried to think of anything other than my current situation. While the plane jerked and groaned, I kept waiting for the captain to come over the speaker. I wanted him to say something - ANYTHING - to let me know that we were almost out of this. But there was silence over the entire plane, except for those occasional dips that would cause the entire cabin to let out a collective gasp. In those moments, I watched - with fervent focus - the faces of the flight attendants. They were talking calmly, reading magazines, and acting completely oblivious to (what I thought was) our impending doom. Throughout the entire occurrence, their faces were my sole source of comfort. Apparently, they had been on flights like this before.
Of course, in the end, because of the capable hands of our pilots, we landed safely and without incident.
In this place of waiting on the Lord, I am so often reminded of that trip home from Memphis. I'm uncomfortable, and scared. My world is rocking and shaking, and nothing is in my control. I don't hear the voice of my Pilot reassuring me. I just have to trust that He knows what He's doing. He doesn't give me a reason for the delay, but I know it's for my good - so I don't crash into other planes or get struck by lightning on my way towards a landing. In the meantime, I turn to His Word, worship, and the faces of Christian friends who have been here before - because knowing that they survived and therefore are not phased by my panic, is a source of comfort to me in this place.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.