I lift up my eyes to you,
to you whose throne is in heaven.
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he shows us his mercy
My heart is not proud, O Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Songs of Ascent from Psalms 131, 123, 130.
Descent comes before ascent. As they walked up to the holy city the people of Israel habitually sang these songs of submission and humility, making sure their hearts and attitudes were right and their eyes fixed on the Lord, their source of mercy and salvation.
It seems to me this is the essence of waiting. It is an internal exercise of discipline, where we hold in our natural impatience and put down any idea of our rights: life is not about ‘fairness’ or what we think we are ‘owed’. Read these lines again… there is such a deep yearning in them, yet utter willingness to wait for the timing of the Master – complete trust in and submission to His authority and as Jesus said, ‘the times and dates the Father has set by his own authority’ Acts 1v7. We cannot hurry up the dawn – but we do know it is coming! The Lord is portrayed as both a Mistress and a Mother – and there’s real safety and security there.
Here is a picture of ‘waiting’ – it is not always what we think: it is not just standing around being bored and frustrated! Just as in the psalm above, the waiter has to look for the signs that service is required, being deliberately attentive to the diners’ needs. Timing is of the essence – and the timing is dictated by those eating the meal, not by those serving it. It is all about service – and we recognise and reward good service. Waiting is serving… because we are waiting for the Lord.
This always helps me. I think, ‘I am not waiting for him or her or it, or something to happen – I am waiting for the Lord’. I am waiting for the release of the Lord, His timing in my life, His work in my soul. It is not always that easy, of course: we do actually have to believe that the Lord is that interested in the details of my life! He is. Then we have to deal with ourselves and exercise those patience muscles that I wrote about in Ascension Day – while also remembering that our individual waiting is in the bigger context of continually expecting Jesus to ‘come back in the same way He went’ Acts 1v11! ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ 2 Peter3v9. Oh – it seems the Lord is the One who is being patient here, not me!
God works in us through waiting. I’ve written about this before in I’m waiting here – God’s utter insistence on returning to rest and trust in order to find His salvation. But it struck me afresh recently that Isaiah 30 is telling us something more:
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says, ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength’ – but you would have none of it! You said, ‘No! We will flee on horses’- therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses’ – therefore your pursuers will be swift. A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill…. Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30v15-18
It’s the way He works! It’s because He’s kind – and He is actually waiting for us! When we don’t return to Him we simply reap what we have sown through our rebellion – failure, exhaustion, defeat. But this is not what He wants. It is not so much a punishment as the law of sowing and reaping – and all the time HE IS WAITING – longing, ‘rising to show us compassion’ – the picture of the father on the road waiting for the prodigal son to return to his arms.
No wonder Isaiah says later on, in the passage we love to quote, ‘those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength, They will rise up on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint’ Isaiah 40v31. As I am discovering more and more, being silent in prayer, wordless contemplation, receiving the Father/Mother’s love in my innermost being is the place of refilling, restoration and peace. Richard Rohr’s writings and meditations have helped me so much with this inner journey. After years of frenetic activity, stirring myself up and many words it is time to come back to simply BEing before DOing. This quote from one of his books sums it up so well:
’To allow yourself to be God’s beloved is to be God’s beloved. To allow yourself to be chosen is to be chosen. To allow yourself to be blessed is to be blessed. God’s love is constant and irrevocable: our part is to be open to it and let it transform us.’ From ‘Things Hidden, Scripture as Spirituality’.
Waiting is about that ‘allowing’: no wonder it develops character in us and turns out to be a blessing. But it’s still not easy… and I hope you know I am preaching to myself! Well, this wouldn’t be my ‘totally honest, real and no-holds barred’ blog if I didn’t expresss some of the pain as well…
Here’s a poem I wrote last year about watching Sam’s struggle:
The wait, the weight
Stain of sadness,
Loss that cannot be replaced,
Robbery’s sting and broken pride…
An enemy has done this!
On weakening will and heavy heart,
Malignant, threatening, rising tide,
The numbered, wasted days.
Without hope all is lost!
Where is redemption, love as strong as death?
I’m impotent as I watch the slide…
The wait, the weight.
The wait, the weight. It’s true… it is so heavy. Life has been so heavy for so long. ‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick’ – it is so easy to be dragged down. ‘The Lord will not take me beyond what I can bear’ – but just ‘bearing with it’, ‘bearing up’, implies carrying a weight. Of course resting becomes even more important! Our last 2 months ‘off’, our constant holidays and breaks, do help replenish body and soul – to continue the staggering journey, carrying the burden, one day at a time.
As this poem says, it’s been the effect on Sam that is so hard to watch. Last year, when I wrote this, he was so miserable and stuck. I do have to say that since Jessa’s arrival things have changed! She has given him a new lease of life, someone else to consider, something to live for: thank you, brave young woman. And Sam has many good days and has amazingly found a way to live with his diagnosis with hope and determination, even though his life is so constrained, limited and frustrating. Well done, son: refusing to be bitter is the challenge.
But for me – and this is about me – the pain of robbery is still there and the weight is still heavy. In many ways I have lost my son, especially now, he doesn’t need me for daily companionship or to make his meals anymore, and a man is of course way too heavy for any mother to carry. So I AM RELIEVED that after so much waiting, so many long days – 3 years next week since Sam dropped out of university and landed, wounded, back in the middle of my life – and so many ups and downs, we have a BIG change coming up this weekend… they are moving out.
Sam has Jess to feed, support and confide in now (owch! I let go!) and he and Jessa need to have their own space – it’s not called ‘leaving and cleaving’ for nothing! Wonderfully, this week since being home we have found them the perfect place: they get the keys on Saturday, 11.6.11. Thats a watershed day for a man (let the reader of my posts about numbers and dates understand)!
So is my waiting over? No. I continue to wait for the Lord and His strength and the challenges that will come next, we continue to look for the slightest movement of His hand – and I know I still really need my friends too, because as one wrote to me this morning, “We’re gonna continue to hold you all 2 inches from Gods face, so wherever he looks, you’re right there”! We still wait for healing and fulness and redemption and an overcoming testimony of grace.
And I am still waiting another 3 days until Saturday! And after that I’ll have even more space and peace around me for allowing and yielding and letting and hoping and whatever comes next in the journey of descent and ascent.
Thanks for being part of our journey and for making it through a long post. I’ll be taking a break from the computer now until next week 😉