Psalm 13 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
I just recently celebrated two years at the church that I work at. It is an absolute honor and privilege to work at this church, and it is incredible working with my parents, working with people that have known me my entire life, pastoring the kids of parents that parented me when I was younger…It really is a gift to be back at my home church.
I have committed to serving at this church for at least five years, and I’ve been here two.
Obviously, anniversaries force us to become introspective and reflective. We shouldn’t try to move past those reflective opportunities. When we’ve lost a loved one, birthdays, anniversaries, and other special moments sometimes bring us back into our grieving process. We become upset that we’re back in that place that we’ve felt we’ve grown out of, but it’s in those moments where God reminds us where we were, where we are, and where we’re going.
I’m a goal-oriented person. Those that know me know that I like to accomplish what I’ve set my mind out to do. This is my 3-ness showing (if you care about the enneagram). I came to Franklin, TN with the goals of kickstarting the youth ministry, setting up adult education programs, practicing my writing and speaking, and eventually getting my biblical languages down to prepare for PhD programs.
This summer, things were all going pretty well vocationally. I had been doing what I wanted to be doing. The church was experiencing some exciting things (we had announced our building expansion project and the youth group was becoming a little more steady). And I went to a regional church conference for refreshing and renewal. There someone prayed over me and sensed that I felt stuck but that God was calling me to more academic pursuits.
This was exactly what I wanted to hear, and it felt like all my goals were coming together. I emailed one of my seminary professors, and I asked him his advice whether I should pursue my PhD or not. I’m extremely grateful for the relationships that I was able to have with professors at PTS. But I was not expecting his brutal honesty. He told me that if I’m able to do what I want to do without going back to school, then I shouldn’t waste my time.
It was devastating, and it was not what I wanted to hear. I then started going back through my goals, and I began to wonder if I had actually been as successful as I thought I was. And once I started doing that, I began spiraling.
Maybe these last two years haven’t been as fruitful as I thought.
Maybe I should just give up because I’ve been stuck for the last two years.
But I don’t think that’s what God wants. I think it’s important for us to have future-oriented goals, but I also think that God has something to teach us in the daily moments. Henri Nouwen talks about waiting as one of the hardest things Christians have to do. We consider waiting like being in a desert between where we are and where we want to be. We’re constantly trying to move out of that place into something more worthwhile.
What if God has us in a place for a specific purpose?
Waiting seems to be a constant theme throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, from the Psalms to the Prophets, the people of God waited. And in the New Testament, the faithful waited for the birth of the Messiah. Waiting isn’t passive. It is active. As Nouwen puts it, “A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, believing that this moment is the moment.” Our society is full of people that define themselves by what they do. Go to any party or social gathering where you have to meet new people, and one of the first questions asked is “What is it that you do?”
That question, at its subtext, assumes that you are what you do.
If we’re not doing anything, which most of us think is how we should wait, then we’re not being.
But waiting is active. It means leaning into the faithfulness of God. It means trusting in God’s provision. It means holding onto God as God holds onto you.
It also means trusting in God’s plan for you.
One of the reasons we might have a hard time waiting is that we want the futures to look like the ones that we’re constructing, thereby satisfying our own wishes and prayers. When the birth of Jesus was announced to Mary, she complied with God’s will by saying, “Let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). She trusted God so much that she was open to all the possibilities. Even the possibility of a really hard future.
I’m constantly learning how to surrender. I’m learning how to let go of my will and surrender to God’s will. I’m not prescribing this for every single person. But for me, I’m really good at doing. I think what God is teaching me right now is to trust in this very moment. I’ll get to my five years (or probably more) at this church one day at a time. It’s good to have goals, but sometimes we have to allow the pauses to become reflective.
My grandpa wrote this to me as I moved back to Tennessee: God orders our steps and our steps. If you’re feeling stuck, if you’re feeling weird in the waiting, you’re not alone. Maybe God is inviting you to see what God is doing. For you to not look all around, but for God to reveal this moment to you. “Our spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, expecting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination or prediction. This, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control” (Nouwen, Finding My Way Home, 103).
How can you see God working in your moment right now? How can you pause to see God in all things? Don’t be afraid of waiting. Don’t be afraid of feeling stuck. God has you right where you need to be, and it’s in God’s love.