If you ever happen to be in Rome, all you need to do is get on the subway. The Blue Line, to be exact, to experience one of the greatest, most breathtaking surprises of your life. While living in Italy, half a world away, we’ve done this to our friends, our family, our kids, and other expats from throughout the world.
The first time we took our kiddos, they were 6, 5, and 3. I know, unconventional for a family to traipse about Italy with their little ones, but we actually lived there. For us, it was a bit like going from Chicago to Indianapolis. (not even that far, actually)
We had been in country for just a few months when we started exploring. Our home in Perugia was just a few hour train ride from the hustle and bustle of Rome, so off we went.
“How long is the train ride, mommy?” When can we eat? When will we get there? What will it be like?” The questions were never ending and the waiting was excruciating for these little ones. (It was 2005, and I think maybe I had a flip phone. No electronics for passing the time, praise the Lord!) “Just hang on. Just wait. You’ll see.”
And they did. The train arrived at the station, we found our shady, albiet affordable, hostel, checked in and left our belongings, and headed out the door. We walked and talked. We found the subway and hopped on. So much anticipation in the waiting. But, just as we went through that last turnstile, passed the delicious smelling cafe, and rounded by the panino truck, we saw light. And that light pointed us to one of the most marvelous things my eyes have ever seen. The Colosseum. It is such an amazing sight. And to think that it once hustled and bustled with activity in and all around it (for there also lies the Roman forum) during the times of Jesus himself. It really is astonishing. You come up out of a hole in the ground and there before you lies a wonder. A beauty. If you can’t picture what it was like, you’ll soon be reminded as you gaze upon some of the biggest Italian men I have ever seen dressed in full gladiator garb, right down to the sandals. You can easily learn the history (Christians were not killed in the Colleseum, but rather Circus Maximus right down the road.) and picture things like the famous boat races that they had inside. It’s a splendor. And it’s worth the wait. Ask my kids.
Waiting is so incredibly hard. Daily we wait in lines, wait for stop lights, and wait for emails to be returned. We wait on phone calls, for people to make decisions, and more. These are the little things. The banal things. The everyday things. Many of us are waiting on something so much bigger. And, if we aren’t, we will be. Or, we know someone who is waiting right now.
In my life, I have single friends waiting to be married. They’ve done all the right things, been in all the right places, followed the Lord with all of their heart, and it just hasn’t happened. They don’t know why, but they’re waiting.
I have married friends waiting to be blessed with a child. My friends have felt both the incredible loss of miscarriage and/or the loss of an empty womb. They are left to think, “why me?” while they are waiting for something, anything to happen.
I have mom friends waiting for the other shoe to drop. They are waiting on a diagnosis. Or not. Or test results. Some of them have been through this a million times, and for some of them it’s new. Raw. Painful. But, whether it’s the first test result, or the 100th, it never gets easier, this waiting.
I’m at an age now where I also have friends waiting on the hard news about their parents’ struggles, as well. They’re in bad health, perhaps, or need extra care that my friends just can’t provide.
Waiting. Why? Why the waiting, and what does it bring to us? I would propose that waiting on the Lord is a discipline in our lives that needs to be cultivated. Waiting as a discipline is all over in scripture, and you can definitely find it noted in many of our “Christian classics.” When it is practiced in our lives, it brings us great benefit.
The prophet Isaiah wrote
“They that wait upon the lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
And Jesus told his followers to wait for the Holy Spirit to come over them:
“On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” Acts 1:4
Maybe waiting is a crucible, a hardship if you will, that God uses to define our character and our faith. While we wait, we are renewed. We are strengthened. And we are restored.
In the waiting, we are also forced to be still. What can we do? Most waiting situations (think health scare, your children coming into their own faith, your desire for children, etc.) are beyond our control. There often is very little we can do besides worry, and we don’t want or need that.
But, we can sit quietly in his presence and meditate on his word. What a joy to gain deeper revelation and insight into the word of the Lord. (See Psalm 1:1-3)
The other day I was hiking through a National Park with my husband. Now we both love to hike, as well as be outside in nature. But this time, there was actually a destination, a reason for this hike if you will. We were headed to one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. It was pretty hot outside, maybe 85, and very very humid. We were longing to arrive, but knew that it would be worth it. But, the meantime. The waiting. It was so hot. We were so sweaty. You know what, though? I didn’t mind. I wasn’t desiring for it to be “over.” For us to “just get there.” Why? Because I had nothing else to do but to just be with my husband. All I needed to do was literally be with him, talk to him, walk in silence acknowledging his presence, and spend time with him. Being literally in his presence. That’s it. And, it was beautiful.
I love that I can do that with God, as well. Sometimes, like Mary in Luke 10:38 and following, we just need to sit at the feet of Jesus. That’s all. Sit at his feet. Listen to his teaching. Be in his presence. Wait on him to strengthen and renew us. We don’t need to fill the waiting time with more, more, more. Instead, we need to strengthen ourselves during the waiting time by giving him our time and undivided attention. It is there, in the stillness of the waiting room, that we hear his voice.
I can’t say anything that will make your waiting room more pleasant, or give you a reason for your wait. Honestly, you may never know this side of heaven why you have experienced the difficulties that have come into your life. In the end, the why’s can’t be the most important. What becomes important is the how. How you will get through. How you will walk through the trials set before you. How your community will surround you. How you can help others in their time of need, too. I pray that your waiting room transforms you into just the person that God has designed you to be.