Sunday, August 7, 2016
What do we do when we have been praying and longing for something for years and when we think it is time for them to become really the answer is a simple but clear, "Not now." Our reaction, good or bad, shows just how much we, as children in the kingdom of God, trust our Father. I want to be honest with you, my reaction is not always the one I wish it was. For years I thought that at this exact moment in my life I would be packing to go to the one college I have dreamed about for years. Because of internal health challenges I have faced as well as big life events, that isn't possible for me this year. Today I talked to two young women a few years older than me whose lives reminded me of the dreams I have, dreams that I often wonder if will ever happen. One girl was a graphic designer who designs materials for missionaries to raise funds for their work. The other has a degree in education and is leaving in a few days for her second year as a teacher in China. Part of me was thrilled to meet two people near my age who share common goals and interests, the other part of me was filled with a longing ache because I don't know when or if I will get to live out my passions as those two are. Even in that moment I had a clear choice before me to be either dissatisfied and discouraged, or in contrast be encouraged by the fact that their stories showed me that the spark inside of me to do things like that was not gone. God has put certain desires in me not for me to spend my life wishing I could fulfill them, but so that in waiting for them my passion would grow stronger.
Thinking about the concept of waiting reminds me of one time when I was around eight-years-old and saw a puppet that looked almost exactly like my cat at home. I tapped my mom on the arm and asked for it without much tact or strategy involved. I really wanted that little fuzzy black-and-white cat. When my mom told me no I was crushed. As she finished her errands in the store I thought only about that cat. I pleaded for it once more before we left the store, she thought for a moment and said that I would have to wait until I could save up the money for it by doing chores around the house. She very well could have spent the ten dollars without any bother, but she wanted me to work for it. She wanted me to wait so that when I finally had that puppet in my hand I would see its value as more than just ten dollars, but also for the work I had done in order to get the toy. At the time, I was annoyed. Now looking back I am glad she made me wait, because it taught me what it was like to work patiently for something. When we went back to the store some time later and I spread out the fist-full of change on the counter and the lady handed me the puppet. Pride filled my chest. Looking back I can see that the puppet meant so much more to me than it would have if I had gotten the instant gratification I desired.
My favorite Elisabeth Elliot quote comes from the book Passion and Purity, which says, "..I realized that the deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by His letting us having our way in the end but by His making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are able honestly to pray what He taught His disciples to pray: Thy will be done."
This quote packed some punch for me both the first time I read it online and the second time I read it in the book itself. Elisabeth wrote this in the context of a period when she and her future husband had expressed their love for each other to one another, but both felt that it was not the right time to get married or even to date. They ended up in different states with very limited contact, but it did not diminish their feelings. It did however grow her and prepare her for the mission field God had planned for her. As someone waiting on what feels like every aspect of my life, her position resonated with me. Her words showed me that a benefit in waiting is that it gives us the opportunity to trust God in ways we might not otherwise have the chance to.
Whatever you are waiting on it your life, whether that is love, healing, a job position, school, friendships, restoration in a relationship, circumstances to change or whatever it may be, God has not forgotten you. His answer to your longings, to your prayers, may be "no," or they may be a simple "wait." Either way, this is a huge opportunity for you. An opportunity to become bitter or to trust the One who gently guides us. If this subject is close to your heart right now here is a simple but monumental truth to cling to- God's timing is not our timing, but it is always better. Don't ramrod a solution on your own, but follow God's leading.