Monday, June 18, 2007
THE WAITING GAME
Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.
For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.
It will be said on that day 'Lo this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.'
From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides thee, who works for those who wait for him.
Be ready for action with belts fastened and lamps alight. Be like men who wait for their master's return... ready to let him in the moment he knocks.
When he was abused he did not retort with abuse. When he suffered he uttered no threats, but committed his cause to the one who judges justly.
We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons.
For to us, our hope of attaining the righteousness which we eagerly await, is the work of the Spirit through faith.
Be patient my brothers until the Lord comes. The farmer looking for the precious crop his land may yield can only wait in patience, until the autumn and spring rains have fallen.
(Psalm 27:14, RSV; Psalm 62:5, RSV; Isaiah 25:9, RSV; Isaiah (34:4, RSV; Luke 12:35-36, NEB; 1 Peter 2:23, NEB; Romans 8:23, RSV; Galatians 5:5, NEB; James 5:7-8, NEB)
Between our work and the fruit of it there is always a distance, the time of waiting. We all know this and we all have found it hard to bear. Yet waiting is built into the structures of living.
Expectation of good is a joy that we could not have without waiting. Crises of courtship, birth, promotion, all make demands upon our patience. Would it have been better if these changes had fallen upon us, like Newton's apple? Would we have been better people? Something persuades us otherwise. We appreciate the good that has come to us the more when it comes, not by plain sailing, but through heavy seas; over the edge of the falls.
All the same, we do not like being keep waiting; for appointments, for service at stores, restaurants or government offices. This understanding of the importance of not having to wait is reinforced by what we experience in hospitals and nursing homes. Patients (by definition sufferers, those who must wait) have to wait for everything -- for food, drink, nursing; wait even to be moved. Unemployed people are 'waiters'. People who work are 'doers'. The unemployed lack this apparent worth.
We notice in the Scriptures that there is a premium set upon waiting for God. Waiting is a form of faithfulness, of endurance. It is the other side of seeking him. Waiting is so important that its demands are placed upon Jesus, who carries it up to the Father. He works steadily, patiently, in the day God has given him. He has time for people, time for God. When he is handed over to the Jews and to Pilate he accepts for himself exactly those marks of waiting which we see in the hospital and nursing-home patient. He waits for others, others serve him as they will move him, push him, give him food or drink or not, as they decide. Waiting thus is hallowed by God who voluntarily sets aside his rule over us and in Christ comes under its rule. So he encourages and blesses our waiting, our patience, our endurance.
When our experience of waiting... comes home to us we speak of our frustration and, in doing so disclose our assumption that the waiting role, the condition of dependence, the status of patient, is improper to us, a diminution of our true function or status in the world, an affront to our human dignity.
V.H. Vanstone, The Stature of Waiting
Faith means just that blessed unrest, deep and strong, which so urges the believer onward that he cannot settle at ease in the world, and anyone who was quite at ease would cease to be a believer.
Soren Kierkegaard, Gospel of Sufferings
Perhaps, indeed, the better the gift we pray for, the more time is necessary for its arrival. To give us the spiritual gift we desire, God may have to begin far back in our spirit... He may be approaching our consciousness from behind, coming forward through regions of our darkness into our light, long before we begin to be aware that he is answering our request -- has answered it and is visiting his child.
George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons Second series
'Passion' does not mean exclusively or even primarily 'pain': it means dependence, exposure, waiting, being no longer in control of one's own situation, being the object of what is done... If the truth of God is disclosed and the glory of God is manifest in Jesus, then the truth of God must be this, and the glory of God must appear in this -- that God so initiates and acts that he destines himself to enter into passion, to wait and to receive.
W.H. Vanstone, The Stature of Waiting
God himself cuts himself off from himself, he gives himself away to his people, he suffers with their sufferings, he goes with them into the misery of the foreign land, he wanders with their wanderings.
Fritz Rosenweig, quoted by Jurgen Moltmann in Experiences of God
Christ is our hope because Christ is our future. That means that we are waiting and hoping for his second coming, praying 'Come, Lord Jesus, come to the world, come to us'. Without the expectation of Christ's second coming there is no hope.
Jurgen Moltmann, Experiences of God
(With the example of Christ) before my mind, I will begin to desire with all the power of my will to practise this same patience according to my capacity in my own trials. Knowing at the same time the weakness and imperfection of my own soul lettered by attachments, I will above all pray earnestly and humbly for the grace without which I can never hope to conquer my impatience, irritability, aggressiveness and self-righteous impulses to judge and punish others.
Thomas Merton, Spiritual Direction and Meditation
When we love we hand ourselves over to receive from another our own triumph or our own tragedy.
W.H. Vanstone, The Stature of Waiting
Father, thank you for the hope you give me in Jesus, which makes me restless to go on and upwards in his calling of me, and impatient for change among the people with whom I work. May more of them come to love and serve you. I confess, Lord, that there are times when my impatience with them makes me judgmental. I forget how patient you have been with me, watching and waiting for me through times of dullness and rebellion and loss, waiting for me to grow up in all things into Christ.
Because you love us you hand yourself over to us, giving us power over you. Help me to be modest, humble, and patient with them all.
I go on today, Lord, singing and making melody to you in my heart, ready to do and to suffer all that you ask of me, in Jesus Christ. I seek you in all things, I wait for you so. Amen.
>From Rowland Croucher ed., Still Waters Deep Waters (Albatross/Lion), chapter five.