I think it would be accurate to say that most of life is lived and experienced in the in-between. While it may be those non-in-between moments that keep us excited about life and motivated when we are not yet there yet, there is so often space between each high and low. When we were children, we were always waiting to be one year older, to have one more year of responsibility and one more year of freedom. Now we wait for tests results to come back. We wait to meet someone who gets us and wants to share life with us. We wait nine months (or eight, or a few more agonizing weeks) for babies. We wait for career changes, diagnoses, to see loved ones again, for family vacations, through illnesses, for new construction, for next stages in life and even to see those who have passed away again … someday in the future.
In a fast-paced consumer-driven economy and society, it is no wonder that many of us are impatient and struggle with waiting. We have two-day shipping, fast food, email, social media, texts and phone calls – things that seem to make life available on-demand and instantly. Still, there is so much of life that is out of our control and anything but on-demand.
So many have remarked how they have encountered the Holy Spirit in times of agony, distress and pain. Yet, I have even more found God in the waiting.
Psalm 27:14 famously tells us,
“Wait for the Lord,
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.”
Our problem is that we hear that command to wait and we think of a little child with her hands folded in her lap – maybe tapping her feet, but silently, patiently, sitting on a bench, passing the time in quietness. But spiritually speaking, this can’t be what God means when our Creator asks us to wait. Our greatest living just may come in the waiting.
I think times of waiting are what truly teach us how to pray. We get easily distracted and want variety, but waiting teaches us the power of praying the same prayer continually, ever vigilant, expectantly. My prayers (and hopefully yours, too) are never so fervent and concentrated as when I am waiting on God. When you are waiting on God, you don’t forget to pray and you don’t forget what or whom to pray for. Prayer in times of waiting isn’t rote or mechanical, but passionate and desperate.
In times of waiting, we seek God. When we wait on God, we often wonder more about who God is and what God is up to. Sometimes we are angry, resentful or frustrated, but we want answers – and as people of faith we expect them to come from God. Sometimes we even read our Bibles more, thinking there are answers in there (not a bad thought). Sometimes we go back to church while we wait, because we feel closer to God there and we think answers might come sooner if we talk with someone who knows God intimately. We might ask more questions about God or to God while we wait.
Sometimes while we wait, we try to speed things up by taking matters into our own hands. It is no secret that God uses human beings to effect God’s plans in this world. Sometimes we think we are taking matters into our own hands, but perhaps we are just plugging into God’s bigger plans. We often look for solutions and help from others as we wait on God. This may sound like we’re not waiting, but there is often action in waiting. We listen, then God speaks, then we act, then we listen all over again. There are also many times that we wait and others act. But there is often movement, seen and unseen, while we wait.
While we wait, we experience Christ in others. I am a private person so it can be very challenging for me to open up to others when I am waiting on God. Yet, when I share my waiting with others, I often find Christ through other people in that in-between time. So often, the community of God supports us as we wait. Or – even better – they wait along with us. And there is nothing better than being surrounding by the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit as we wait. If you are waiting and haven’t opened up to at least one brother or sister in Christ, consider it.
The biggest myth about waiting on God is that it means stopping. Hopefully we are listening as we wait for God, but I find comfort in all that is going on during the waiting. Waiting has taught me to pray harder, seek God more passionately, be part of God’s plan (and trust that others are, too) and experience Christ in others along the wait. So much of life is lived as we wait. So let us not give in or give up, but watch and wonder where God is, who God is, how God is and whom God is within as we wait to move from one space in life to the next; let us not miss all the living that is to go on in between.
JULIE RAFFETY serves as the pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Franklin, New Jersey. Julie is a violinist, aspiring writer, snowboarder, runner, identical twin and crazy about popcorn.