Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thoughtful About . . . Holding On

Does anyone like to wait? I don't think I've ever met such a crazy person. I'm not talking about being patient in a long line or restraining yourself from honking your horn in traffic. I'm talking being really, truly joyful as you put down the phone or close out the email that said, "Not yet. I know you've been anxious, but not yet."

It's hard. When you've been looking forward to something, when your hopes rest in a possibility . . . it's hard when that possibility remains just out of reach.

Hard--but that doesn't mean it's cause for discouragment.

I don't find it a coincidence that so many of the devotionals and inspirational quotes I've read in the past year deal with waiting, with resting, with that lull between times of action. And all the messages are the same: we might get impatient, but this is the time when God's preparing us for what's to come. This is the time when He's building our roots before visible growth, when the waters are gathering beneath the surface before the wave breaks. This is a blessing. This is rest--if only we can sit back and let Him rejuvenate us instead of stressing out about it.

This came up again for me yesterday because, within an hour, we got two big "Not yet" answers. The first was concerning a publishing proposal. It wasn't a No, it wasn't even a "maybe at some far distant time." It was instead a request that I finish up, send it to her when it's finished, but don't kill myself over pace in the meantime, and a promise of an answer in March. In some ways, this is the best possible news, because I need to take a few days from writing to get editing done here real soon, and I hadn't felt I had the freedom to do that. So it's good . . . even if it leaves me with a bit of ennui over yet another Not yet.

The second was concerning our church. We've been renting a building we share with other groups since our inception, and it's not really working anymore. But our hunts for a place of our own kept turning up empty. We recently found a building we feel can work, everything was chugging along . . . then we get the email saying, "I think it'll still go through, but not yet. We have to check on XYZ first."

It would be easy to toss our hands into the air and say, "Fine! Okay, God! You're not smoothing every bump, so fine, we'll just give up!"

But that's not right. When God calls us to leave something behind, he fills us with peace about it. He breathes excitement into us about the new path he wants us on. Never, never does He work through discouragement. Never, never does He work through destruction. He is a builder. He edifies, He encourages. If we get discouraged by minor setbacks that isn't Him telling us to quit. That's someone else entirely.

No, God isn't into tearing us down when we seek him. But sometimes, because He sees a lot farther into the future than we can (like, all the way), He makes us wait just a bit longer than we wanted. Maybe just a week. Maybe a couple months. Maybe years or decades. Why? Maybe because it'll grow our faith. Maybe because there other things at work that need to be dealt with, on both physical and spiritual planes. Maybe because He wants us to enjoy just a little more rest before the change begins.

I don't have answers about this stuff, not definitive ones. But I know that when disappointment sets in, He isn't the one that whispers, "Give up." He's the one that whispers, "Hold on." Yeah, that can mean "wait." But it also means, "Take My hand."

I'm holding on, Lord. I'm not letting go, no matter how long it takes. When my strength fails, when my patience runs thin, when hope feels faint, You'll sustain me. That's the way You work.

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