Our world culture does not believe in waiting. We live in an instant world: instant messages, instant coffee, microwave meals, fast lanes, instant messaging, quick feeds, quick access, direct access etc. Our culture says: “get going”; “do something”; “make a difference” ; “don’t just sit there and wait.”
To wait is contrary to the world culture around us. As Henri J.M. Nouwen says in his essay ‘The Path of Waiting’:
“…for us and for many other people, waiting is a dry desert between where we are and where we want to be. We do not enjoy such a place. We want to move out of it and do something worthwhile.”
I was so fascinated by Nouwen’s article, that I would like to share his four characteristics of waiting:
- Waiting has a sense of promise. Those who are waiting have received a promise that gives them courage and allows them to wait. They have received something that is at work in them, a seed that has started to grow. This is important: we too can wait better if that which we are waiting for has already begun in us. Waiting is never a movement from nothing to nothing. It is always a movement from something to something.
- Waiting is active. It is not a hopeless state where events are out of our hands, like waiting for the bus. Active waiting is not passive, it implies being fully present in the moment, believing that this moment is the moment, we are alert, attentive.
- A waiting person is patient. This implies that we are willing to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will become real in us. Impatient people: believe the real thing is waiting elsewhere because this moment is empty. It is not passive because patience nurtures the growth of something inside of you.
- Waiting is open-ended. Waiting is not wishing for that which we want, wishing holds within it the fear of our needs not being met. This is when we slip into disappointment and despair, and take matters into our own hands. We don’t wait open-ended because our fear will not allow us to wait without our wishes being met. Waiting is open-ended when it is based on hope, based on who God is. It says “whatever God, I trust you.” To wait in hope is to give up control over the future and letting God define your life.
A lot of what we call ‘waiting on God’ is not waiting at all! It is our excuse for lack of action, lack of trust, lack of belief.
It waiting has as its basis an expectation of seeing a promise fulfilled then starting with a promise is a requirement of waiting. In the early chapters of Luke both Mary and Elizabeth had a promise they were waiting for. Simeon and Anna in the temple were waiting for a promise to be fulfilled. All of them had something good and new that they were waiting for to happen, they were looking out for it to be witness to its fulfilment.
Waiting as I understand it, is rowing your row-boat of life, paddling away, bailing out the water, plugging the holes. It is not a passive exercise of enduring what is in the boat, focused on enduring until you are miraculously removed from the boat. It is rowing your boat, keeping your eye on the horizon because Jesus is going to come walking across the water to join you, because he said he would. So you paddle, bail, plug but keep your eye on the horizon.
What has God planted in your heart (a seed of His Word) that you are waiting for?