We hate it. Whether it’s bumper-to-bumper traffic when you can’t see ahead to know what’s causing the delay, the grocery store check-out lines, test results or job offers, it’s so easy to come unraveled. Our culture values speed, efficiency, action and progress.
Musicians wait in a specific way due to timing and rhythm. I played the flute in the band during middle school and high school. Typically most compositions call for each section of instruments to be played at different times. I remember counting out measures so that I knew when my part to play was and closely watching for the conductor to signal the flute section (or any section) to play when our time came. We weren’t fraught with anxiety because we were temporarily at rest. We knew we were part of a bigger picture of skillfully composed music. Just like watching the conductor, we never take our eyes off God, because he is the master conductor of this symphony called life. His timing is perfect.
Gene Wilkes has some insights on waiting found in Jesus on Leadership: Discovering the secrets of servant leadership from the life of Christ (1998 Lifeway Press). “Quiet waiting takes you out of your tasks and goals to a place of quiet musing. It is a calculated pause to listen and learn. Quiet waiting results in a strong heart. King David knew that waiting on God produced this kind of strength. The focus is listening for instruction on the next step while considering your last one.” Jesus knew how to wait quietly. He prayed all night before he chose his leadership team of 12 disciples, based on Luke 6:12-16. Quiet waiting was the core characteristic of his life.
Expectant waiting is waiting for a promise. “Spiritually, expectant waiting is trusting God’s word, knowing that he is up to something. We wait and expect something to happen, based on his Word.” Expectant waiting is looking. Expectant waiting is active and focused. The disciples waited for the promised Holy Spirit of God to pour out upon them. Expectant waiting led to realized hope. Expectant waiting is what musicians do as they listen, count and wait for the precise moment to play their part.
“Waiting is neither procrastination or indecision. These are born out of laziness and fear. Waiting in the context of Jesus’ teachings is trusting that there is a season for everything (Eccles. 3:1). It is staking your life on the reality that God makes things happen for his purposes and on his timetable. Waiting is trusting that Timing is everything.”
A victim of Corporate America middle management budget slashing, my husband was warned of staff reductions back in April. After nearly a dozen interviews, constant networking, endless employment applications in health care administration, he waits. We wait quietly, during a measure of rest, listening for whatever wisdom God choses to impart. We wait expectantly, trusting that God’s word says that he will guide and provide, perhaps even after savings runs dry. Is God teaching us the difference between wants and needs? Is he is teaching us dependence and trust in him? Is he chipping away at pride we harbor in being self-sufficient? Is he preparing my husband for a fulfilling servant leadership position?
Maybe all of this. Maybe none of this.
What I do know is the past several months have become a journey, rather than an instant, genie-like request of “please grant us a job.” We have battled despair, frustration, discouragement, disagreement, and impatience. Some days we have fallen on our face.
But this war isn’t over yet.
Time and time again, what encourages me is Paul’s teaching in Philippians 4: 6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, (emphasis mine) by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” We must continue to give thanks and praise to God even though we don’t understand what the purpose is in being unemployed.
What would we learn if we praised and thanked God only when life seems to be going our way? If we gain nothing else during this time, it will be the practice of thanking, worshiping and praising God regardless of our circumstances.
And that is enough.