Last weekend I found a cute new bookstore cafe. I loved it so much, that I actually said “Yes” when the barista asked if I wanted to sign up for the rewards program. It has the perfect combo of a clean and minimalist atmosphere, comfortable chairs, carefully curated playlists, bold coffee, and mood lighting. And it’s filled with beautiful books. When I walked in, I made a beeline for the children’s section to look for a book my friend told me I needed to read. Thirty minutes later I emerged from the large pillows and a tower of books, wishing I could buy every single one. I love the way they communicate what seem like complex realities of life so simply…and in fifteen pages. Among my favorites was one called “Waiting“; I needed a simplified version of that complex reality.
I think it goes without saying that we spend a lot of our lives waiting on things – waiting for an acceptance letter, waiting for your latte to be called at the bar, waiting on that raise, waiting for a good idea, waiting in line at the DMV (seriously, a lifetime), waiting for clarity on career options, waiting for the results of that test, waiting to meet the person you’ll choose to spend the rest of your life with.
Waiting begins the moment we hope for something and begin to anticipate receiving it.
Waiting is inevitable. It’s a part of life. And it’s something we will be doing our whole lives as we live in the tension of the now and the not yet. This season has been one where the waiting has been burdensome for me. In addition to the waiting, it has been really painful to think God was fulfilling certain hopes and desires and be met with disappointment and waiting all over again. To be completely honest, there have been days when it has been debilitating. It brings up a lot of insecurities that end up limiting me in my relationships and the way I engage the world around me. I really hate living controlled by my insecurities. I want to be driven by my true identity as one loved by God. So, one of the questions I’ve been asking God in this season is: “How do I live well in the waiting – fully alive, fully surrendered?”
How do I own the things my heart desires before God without being owned by them?
I think there’s a difference. One infuses the waiting with hope and the other weighs it down with anxious worrying. One gives you the freedom to move forward with joy, while the other traps you and turns it into a prison. One allows you to respond to everything you receive (the good and the hard), with “Thank you”, trusting in the goodness and sovereignty of the Lord. The other drives you into the comparison game, as you watch others receive the things you’d been hoping for, allow anger to take root and bitterness to grow. One allows you to engage and serve others with joy, while the other limits and even damages relationship.
This past week I came across Hebrews 12:1 as I was studying. I know this verse well, but it has never stood out to me quite like this before – probably because I don’t usually read the KJV version of my Bible. That’s the beauty of Scripture, though. I love that its Truth is unvarying while the Spirit uses it to shed light, challenge, and encourage us afresh. The verse simply says:
“Let us run with patience the race set before us.”
Run. With patience. That feels like an impossibility. A paradox. What does it actually mean to run with patience?
The chapter before this one, Hebrews 11, is the well-known Hall of Faith passage where one individual after another is commended for his faith. And the very last verse, the one that ends the chapter before we start talking about running with patience, says this: “And all these, though commended for their faith, did not receive what had been promised…” They were still waiting on God to fulfill His promises to them, yet look at how they lived. I naturally associate patience with waiting. Doesn’t waiting imply standing in line? Sitting in a waiting room? Holding still? We actually call out “Wait!” when we want someone to stop in their tracks. But these heroes of faith didn’t sit around twiddling their thumbs. They believed that God was already at work on their behalf. They entrusted their hopes and desires to the One who could fulfill them…and they ran.
I think it’s really hard to find that sweet spot. I mean, I’m human and more times than not I would much rather stay put and direct all of my energy and focus towards that one thing I want to see happen. At the same time, living that way is miserable. Because I’m not God and can’t actually control the world or the people around me. I could try and control the situation or manipulate the circumstances, but in the past that has often led to discontentment. And really all I am doing is focusing on that one thing I don’t have that I’m waiting for. It keeps me from really living life to the fullest. But I’m realizing that I don’t have to sit and wait here, protecting that thing that I hope for. Grasping. White-knuckled clutching. I can let go and know that my Heavenly Father is already working on my behalf. I can run forward knowing He’s got it. And it feels kind of daring to say:
“I’m not going to wait around on that thing to happen. I’m going to continue hoping while I sprint forward.”
The hope that this posture builds is so freeing.
Running with patience gives us the opportunity to take our eyes off ourselves; to shift our gaze first to God and then to others.
And this doesn’t mean we pretend the “hard” isn’t there. We run in the realities of life. We can run with a heavy heart. We can run with disappointment. We can run with deep sorrow in our spirits. We can run with wounds that feel like they might never heal. But rather than burying them in inactivity and allowing them to spiral us into deeper heaviness and sorrow, we channel them into active service. Our waiting fuels the blessing our lives can be to others.
See, when we remain raw and vulnerable, fully trusting our heavenly Father and clinging to His promises, the very things that are “denting” us actually enable us to contribute to the joy of other people.
We get to actively and joyfully participate in His work as He fulfills His promises in the lives of others. And I believe that as a result, we experience greater joy in our own lives.
What if we were to invest everything we have and everything we are in the Kingdom? Rather than slowing down, what if we sprinted forward? Waiting doesn’t equal a standstill. It doesn’t mean we sit down, and tap our feet until the thing we hope for happens. It means we stand up, put one foot in front of the other, and acknowledge and own our desires before the One who can fulfill them. Then we take off and sprint with joy and confidence, not letting the waiting own us.
To running with patience!