Saturday, April 27, 2019

Hurry Up and Wait

At dance competitions or shows, my husband and I have a saying, “Hurry up and wait.” Given the unpredictable nature of scheduling at such events, there is always a rush to arrive at the venue in plenty of time to register, get a feel for the dance floor, warm up, change, and pray before the event is called. But once we do this, there is often a long wait before we dance, with the risk that muscles will get stiff and cold, that we need to refuel, and that costumes and makeup will need additional readjusting.

The same is true in many circumstances of daily life, like commuting. The morning scramble of dressing and grabbing a bite to eat before rushing out the door often results in a seemingly endless wait in a traffic jam. Or, once we breathlessly race into the important morning meeting for fear we’ll be late, we end up just sitting there restlessly for twenty minutes until the boss saunters in to rally the troops.

These moments of waiting need not be wasted, as our time on earth is short and precious (Job 14:1; James 4:14), and we should redeem the time (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5). While waiting to dance, my husband and I often use the time to pray, visualize our performance, and encourage our fellow dancers. While stuck in traffic or waiting for a meeting to start, we could mentally rehearse our plans for work and ask God for His guidance (Proverbs 3:5-6) in all that we say and do, to be good ambassadors for Him (2 Corinthians 5:20), to His glory.

Such examples are common and not particularly dramatic, but a similar philosophy could be applied to a life-changing event such as childbirth. While the mother-to-be waits for nine long months for natural labor to begin, helpless to bring it on any sooner, she prepares her heart and her home for the new arrival, nourishing her growing infant by eating and sleeping properly and avoiding toxins or other harmful exposures.

But once she feels that first labor pain and her water breaks, she drops everything and races to the hospital, where again she must wait for the right time to begin actively pushing to deliver her child. The pangs become sharper and closer together, but in the interval between contractions, there is nothing to do but conserve energy, release stress, and wait patiently for the next one.

Jesus and the apostle Paul compared this process of childbirth to what the world will experience, and I believe is experiencing now, as the End Times draw near (Matthew 24:8; Romans 8:22). God is not slothful to deliver on His promise of the Rapture and Second Coming, but is waiting for His perfect timing (2 Peter 3). The signs of the times, such as earthquakes, wars, famine, epidemics, increasing evil, and false teachers (Mark 13; Matthew 24) become more intense and frequent as the day approaches, much like labor pains (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

It reminds me that “hurry up and wait” applies to our spiritual life as well. When we hear God speak to us through His Word (Psalm 119) or in other ways (1 Kings 19:12), we must be swift to obey, for delayed obedience is the same as disobedience (Matthew 21:28-31). If we ask our teenager to take out the trash, and he agrees to do it, but it’s still sitting there the next evening and growing putrid, he has not been obedient.

If we have not yet trusted Christ as our Lord and Savior, despite the Holy Spirit tugging at our heart to do so, we may procrastinate, but at our own peril. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2), and if we keep putting it off, our heart and our conscience may eventually become seared (1 Timothy 4:2) to the point that we no longer hear God calling.

Often born-again Christians, who have been saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven, also indulge in this type of disobedience. We have clear direction from God, but we rationalize our delay in following, using such euphemisms as “God is laying a burden on my heart about this,” or “the Spirit is convicting me to do this,” or “I’m still praying for peace about this matter.”

As the Nike commercial says, “Just do it!” Once God speaks, we must not only listen, but hurry to obey, just as the shepherds ran to see the infant Jesus (Luke 2:15-17), or the Samaritan woman raced off to witness about the Messiah she had found, in her haste leaving behind her water pot at the well (John 4).

But there are times that we agonize because God seems to be silent, or because we are unable to determine what path He desires for us in a specific matter, or because He has promised a good outcome that seems to be endlessly delayed. We forget that His timing is always perfect (Ephesians 1:10), and that His definition of “soon” can be one thousand years instead of one day (2 Peter 3:8), as we would prefer.

In circumstances like these, we must wait on the Lord (Psalm 27:14) to reveal His plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11) in His perfect way and with His perfect timing. Otherwise, we will act rashly with irremediable consequences, as Sarah did. God had promised that she and her husband Abraham would at long last have a child, ending her barrenness even though she would be even older than she already was. Through that child of promise, Abraham would become the father of a great nation (Israel) and through his seed (Jesus Christ), all nations would be blessed (Genesis 18:10-18; 22:18; 26:4).

But nearly a quarter century passed since God made that promise, and Sarah was still barren. So she took matters into her own hands, as if God could not be trusted to deliver on His Word, and as if He needed her “help.” She persuaded Abraham to have a child by her Egyptian handmaid Hagar, and he too demonstrated his spiritual weakness by listening to his wife instead of to God (Genesis 16).

Ishmael, the resulting child, brought strife and heartache into his family’s life, particularly once Isaac, the child of promise, was finally born (Genesis 21). But the consequences of attempting to force God’s plan did not stop in their home, for Ishmael gave rise to the Muslim nations that continue to be at war with Israel to this very day.

We wait in lines at the supermarket; we wait for a birthday or special occasion, and we must patiently wait on God’s timing in all areas of our life, if we are to be good stewards (1 Corinthians 4:2), while we await His long-promised return. This waiting is not passive or slothful, but is actively spent in prayer, studying His Word, and doing His general will in areas where there is no question, such as witnessing to others about Him (Matthew 28:18-20), praying for others, giving (Philippians 4:10-17) and tithing (Malachi 3), and serving Him in a local church (Hebrews 10:25).

As Christians, we will be blessed if we hurry up to obey once God gives us a clear command, but wait to hear His voice before making any radical moves or decisions. May we listen for His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12) and be swift to obey it!   

© 2019 Laurie Collett



Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
Although I had never acted or danced on stage or at any public venue, I can still understand the frustration in waiting for your turn as you try to contain the excitement. Or alternatively, allowing the sense of apprehension grow in case you make a mistake while performing. In both cases, the waiting can seem like eternity!
Or standing in line at a checkout queue and enduring extra waiting whilst the customer being served fumbles with a thick wad of penny-off coupons, or has difficulty writing a cheque, or even disputes over the price of an item.
And then the cashier calls the manager or checkout supervisor who at that moment is busy with someone else. And then the extra long wait, the line remain stationary, the cashier just sits there and does nothing. Minutes pass before the supervisor finally arrives...
Yes, I have been through all that. Or like the time I had to queue up at the only working till at a railway station. Whilst the customer in front of me discusses the possibility of purchasing a train ticket from here (in the UK) to Timbuktu via China, I hear the sound of my train approaching...
Then on the contrary, your boss or someone in authority sets you on a unpleasant task. You can't help but delay as much as possible.
I have come to learn throughout life that patience is indeed a gift of the Holy Spirit, and whether I miss the train or not, only he could bring the peace within which is beyond understanding.
An excellent post God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Thank you for sharing these illuminating examples. God works all things together for our good, so I guess the best response to missing the train would be to thank Him for keeping us from some unseen calamity. I believe that when we get to Heaven, there will be an instant replay of all the moments like this that aggravated us, followed by a clear view of the danger He kept from us.

But meanwhile, I struggle with patience in the earthly realm, and as you say, it is possible only as a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks as always for your comment, and God bless,

Donald Fishgrab said...

Great post Laurie.
Sometimes we get impatient that we don't know where to go, when the truth is that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. As one writer said, instead of getting upset by being forced to stop at a red light, recognize it as a moment to rest and prepare for the next step.

Susan said...

I can still vividlyremember a humorous page in a woman’s magazine from when I was a young child in Holland. It showed several images to show a time lapse of a child planting a bean in a pot and growing bored waiting for the plant to sprout. The final image is of the child closely examining the bean with an overturned flowerpot where the bean had been seconds before. The Lord frequently uses gardening and planting examples, and He was, I believe, speaking to me even then...and I’m still that way, but I do thank the Lord for His patience and mercy.

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Donald! I was reading an Oswald Chambers devotional, and He made the point that we can be absolutely certain that God is in control and working all things together for our good, yet completely uncertain about what each moment will bring forth. So we should regard our life as an adventure, be blessed in each moment, and trust Him!
God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Susan,
Thanks for sharing that great example! For some reason it reminded me of when I was a little girl and received a junior Betty Crocker baking set. After my mother and I mixed the gingerbread batter and placed the pan in the oven, I could barely contain my excitement and wanted to taste the final product before it was even ready. My mother knew better than to let me, so instead I did a tap dance in front of the oven, causing the gingerbread to fall flat. An early lesson in patience, I guess!
God bless,

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
I absolutely agree that we must obey what the Lord is saying to us, no matter what questioning may come from the carnal mind. I have endeavoured to do this constantly and have seen the reason for my obedience to His voice once I have obeyed what He has told me to do. There is definitely a time for everything and if the Lord has given us a promise, delay (according to what we think) is part of the perfect timing of God because trials strengthen us, and bring us to realize that God is not a man that He should lie. I love the way He accompanies His Word many times with signs, and when we trust in Him and His Word to us it proves true.
God bless you Laurie.

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Brenda -- may we be attentive to hear and swift to obey His still, small voice, and be patient as He accomplishes His perfect will in His perfect timing. May we trust in Him, for He alone is true and faithful!