Impatience, The Desert, and the Art of Waiting

I chose the title “while waiting” for this blog back in 2008 when it was birthed, and anytime I’ve had the urge to change it I’m quickly reminded why I chose the title in the first place.

Those that know me well (especially Tina) or have worked with me know that waiting is not my forte.  In fact, it can be excruciating for me.  I like to get things done now, to figure out solutions today, and to make sure that forward progress is being made every step of the way.  If this doesn’t happen, then it’s easy for me to be irritable, worrisome, and not so pleasant to be around.

So subliminally, the title is a reminder of what I long to be, rather than who I am today.  I want to be a person who waits, and one who waits well, for that matter.

Usually when I share with people that I’m in a season of transition, there’s the hint of immediate ambiguity in the conversation, at least how I perceive it.

“What are you going to do?”

“What’s next for you?”

“How are you going to provide for the family?”

“Why did you really leave your situation?”

And even, “You’re so lucky.  I wish I had a break in my life like you do.”

With each question comes the small, unsettling stir in the stomach, a reminder that there are tensions I hold in my life right now that have no specific answer.

Things are still unresolved when it comes to what’s next, and so are the questions of security that come with it.

I left because against many sensibilities, I felt it was the right time and really a God-thing to take me through a valley into something new.  I’m almost at the “new”.  Almost.

And yes, this has been a wonderful season of rest for Tina and I, one that I’m grateful we’ve had (made available by the generosity and hospitality of family and our friends at NLF), but I’d be lying if I told you that I’m in a state of perpetual serenity while the cloud of mystery remains perched above me.

The truth is, it’s hard for me to enjoy life without working, and while part of that is good, part of that is also flawed.  To live inside me you’d find that holding together rest and work creates a convoluted knot that causes me to feel awfully strange as I confess, “I actually don’t like having all this time off.  And I feel guilty about feeling that way for some reason.”

As cliche as it sounds, the one thing I hold on to is the promise that God will be faithful and has led me to this place, and that’s the anchor in the blur of the unknown.

Sidenote:  One of my strengths in my Strengths Finder profile is an Achiever, someone who tends to want to constantly get things done.  That’s why it’s hard for me to sit still!

I’ve been looking at the lives of Moses, David, and Paul lately, aided by Reggie McNeal’s terrific book A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders, and it’s really quite stunning to study consistent patterns in their lives.

Most specifically, there’s the pattern of the desert, and the pain that leads them there.

Moses flees to the desert for forty years – forty years – after having an identity crisis and fleeing for his life after murdering someone.

David flees to the desert at many times throughout his life, hiding from kings, armies, and even his own son, all of whom are out to kill him.

Paul goes in hiding for three years or so after his conversion… not many details there, but we know he speaks of it in the book of Galatians, and it’s a formative time for him after a radical encounter with Christ.

Meanwhile, Jesus goes to the proverbial desert and wilderness at many times, sometimes as a way of refuge and prayer, but also in an experience of loneliness and battling the temptations of the devil.

Every leadership book I read tends to say the same thing about the process that people go through as they journey through life, and one of the consistent themes is the desert.

There is no Promised Land without the Desert.  There is no Resurrection without Death.  Whatever metaphor you use, the desert shows up in many ways.

You can imagine how difficult this is for me to hear.

Moses waits for 40 years, Jesus waits for 30 years before starting any kind of public ministry, David is constantly in the desert and Paul waits at least 3 years.

I’ve been waiting for about 5 months, and yet there are times of complaining about some of my first world problems.  Go figure.

I realize the “new” that God is doing in me (and has been doing in me) is teaching me to wait, but doing so by teaching me that all of life is waiting.

There will always be the unresolved in my life – whatever season I’m in.  The more I get older the more I realize bigger questions come into view.

Whether it’s young adulthood, parenting (especially parenting), growing older, starting a career, figuring out how to be a healthy single person, keeping a career, dealing with medical diagnoses, etc, the unknowns get bigger and bigger.

But the art of waiting involves living into the unknown.

Notice I said living.

The art of waiting involves living.

Living means still opening myself to God’s work in me every day to become a better husband, a better father, and a more loving neighbor.

Living means still thinking of ways to be generous with my time, talent, and treasure, remembering the hungry in Africa or the needy down the street.

Living means enjoying my time fully with family and friends, laughing, eating slices of pizza, and reveling that the Yankees are no longer in the playoffs.

Living means sharing the good news of Jesus whenever possible – first with myself and then with others – because it really is good news.

At the end of the day, the art of waiting really consists of still living.

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

– Rainer Maria Rilke 

8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
   And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
   and to walk humbly with your God.

– Micah 6:8

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

– The Serenity Prayer

Amen and amen.

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15 responses to “Impatience, The Desert, and the Art of Waiting

  1. Thanks for sharing all your heart dear Brother. I can relate as I also am enjoying and freaking out what it means to live well without working a job at this time. It’s very disorienting. I am discovering gems, things about me that are surfacing from uptapped depths. Keep at it and you might find yourself doing things you “wished you had done.” I’m doing things now that I never thought I’d honestly pursue. And I’m being painstakingly slow about it! One other thing….a friend and counselor from many years ago said this to me when I was worrying about what I was not doing. He said, “sometimes, Sandy, you have to risk being bored.” 🙂

  2. thanks drew! been contemplating a lot of those thots especially since ill be done with school fairly soon and be forced to face another transition. hope you are well!

  3. Ah, Drew, you got me again. I’m terrible at waiting, and while I haven’t been able to stop working, I’ve definitely been “in transition” in some major ways, more acutely in the last year. Living the questions is such a stretching experience. I’m much better at resenting the questions than living them. I applaud your courage (and Sandy’s!).

  4. Amen. Thanks for sharing Drew

  5. Don’t forget Abram who woke up everyday knowing he was following God without knowing where he was going, what was waiting for him, and when he would get there.

  6. Why must there always be hate towards my beloved Yankees? smh. Even so, i miss u and Tina verrry much!! Im grateful u still blog!! 🙂
    And i agree, waiting is no fun 😦 i’m on 16 months of waiting for a new job…*sigh*

    • haha, it’s all in good fun. i actually miss the yankees being in the playoffs still, bc it’s just so much more fun in the city with them. and you’re in my prayers, mari! you’re a gift.

  7. Thanks. Saw this retweeted from Rich V. I needed this today brother.

    A side note… I get the reveling about the Yankees no longer being in the post season. I’m a Yankee’s fan. I revel every year when the Mets don’t make it into the post season to begin with. LoL.

  8. Pingback: Church Planting and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction | while waiting

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