Expecting

Some years ago a friend told me that the theme of her life was waiting.  She was waiting for the addition to her house to be completed and she was waiting for the birth of her first child.  That conversation made me think about waiting as a religious experience.

One of my favorite Bible verses is “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.  They shall rise up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31.)  The Hebrew word translated wait means holding oneself ready for an arrival or occurrence, to be in expectation or hope of something—the kind of waiting my friend and her husband were doing.

They hadn’t seen what was to come, but they had a vision and expectation of something wonderful and were readying themselves outwardly and inwardly for the arrival.  They put up with the discomfort, chaos, dirt, and inconvenience much better because of what they were expecting than they would have if they had had no hope and no expectation.

The faithful of Israel got strength for their daily lives because their waiting on God meant they were expecting the promised activity of God on their behalf.  I’m sure there were times when they couldn’t see it happening as they fell to defeat and lost things they considered essential—homeland, power, the temple.  But their continued belief that God was involved kept them together as a people and gave them a vision to live toward.

All of us encounter hard times—physically, financially, emotionally, relationally, politically.  To wait on the Lord is to claim and to be given the strength to get through such times, because it gives us a perspective about what is happening that keeps the hard times from defeating us.  All is not meaningless and hopeless.  God is at work in our lives and in our world.  For Christians, Jesus Christ reveals and is that promise.

Queries:

When have you encountered hard times, and what has helped you get through them?

What is your experience of waiting and expecting?

Prayer:

Thank You for the promise of Your presence and for Your faithfulness through the generations.  Help me remember You in good times and bad, in the Spirit of him who knew peace even on a cross.

For further reflection:

“Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long” (Psalm 25:5).

“For in hope we were saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what is seen?” (See Romans 8: 22-25).

Waiting in Darkness

There are many beautiful and powerful passages in the Bible prophesying or promising God’s full reign on earth.  God will create “new heavens and a new earth.”  “Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war any more.”  “They shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.”  “God will put God’s law within the people, and write it on their hearts.”  “God will wipe every tear from their eyes.  Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.”

Some of us know the agony of waiting more than others.  A mother longs for her challenged child to be able to overcome his limitations and live a fulfilling life.  But she waits in the darkness, not knowing.  African-Americans wonder how long their dream of true freedom and equality will be deferred.  Waiting so long for the reality of the wellbeing promised, we face a number of temptations.  One is to assume that God simply does not exist, that solving the world’s problems (and ours) is all up to us.  Other responses are hopelessness, despair, anger, and self-righteousness, which tend to be self-destructive.  Instead how can we hold onto the beauty and comfort of these promises and find value in the waiting and darkness?

I believe that living in hope brings a better world than living in hopelessness.  I think we have glimpses or moments of knowing inwardly that the promises are true.  And our lives lived in the glow of those help us live more in the promises, making the world better.

I think our logical thinking does not get us to the world we long for, but rather tends to turn us in wrong directions and selfish pursuits.  I think, rather, that we are spiritually formed in the darkness.  Like a seed.  Spiritual growth comes in letting go and loving God inwardly and outwardly.  The waiting we do provides the time and conditions for this growth in grace and truth, allowing us to peer into the darkness and see the Light that is always there.  In the darkness we learn our true proportion; we cannot push God around.

Queries:

What helps you live in disappointment and unknowing?

What promises are meaningful to you?

Prayer:

Teach me your ways, O Holy One, and keep me on your path.

For further reference:

“The lion shall eat straw like the ox. . . .They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain.” (See Isaiah 11: 6-9.)

“The kingdom is not coming with things that can be observed. . . For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” (See Luke 17: 20-21.)

Waiting

My friend was in the hospital for several days, unconscious and on a respirator. No one knew what was wrong or what the outcome would be. All we could do was wait. His immediate family members were with him, doing what they could to support him. They waited to see doctors, waited for tests and test results, waited to see if he would be transported to another hospital, waited for him to wake up—waiting, waiting, waiting. It is surprisingly hard work. [Fortunately at this time he is largely recovered.]

In Quaker expectant, waiting worship, those gathered wait for a settling into the quiet and calm, a sense of the Presence, a word of inspiration or guidance received inwardly or spoken by someone gathered, a leading of the Spirit. The waiting involves the passing of time. It is not always comfortable.

In addition to letting time pass, the word “wait” can mean attending, giving attention to. Today we refer to the people who take orders and serve food in a restaurant as the “wait staff.” Their job is to pay attention to the customers, find out what they want, respond to their requests, make sure they are satisfied.

The waiting in Quaker worship is also an attending. It is being in relationship with the divine, being present with, listening inwardly, quieting oneself so as to be able to hear and respond. It involves showing up regardless, so you’re there when something happens. As a child my younger son didn’t talk much about what was going on with him. If he did talk, it happened most often when I tucked him into bed. I tried to tuck him in every night, and then when he wanted to talk, I was there.

Regular attendance at meeting for worship, taking time routinely for prayer, makes a difference. We learn to wait, we develop relationship with the One who loves us, we become practiced at paying attention and listening. So when there is something we really need to hear, or to say, we are there and ready.

Queries:

What is waiting like for you?

To wait—have time pass—when you don’t know what will happen is hard. Some say that waiting—attending—on God makes a difference as the time passes. What has been your experience?

Prayer:

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning” (Psalm 130: 5-6).

For further reference:

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. . . .” (See Isaiah 40: 28-31).

“Be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27: 14).