One month. Yes, since the Slow Down challenge I have been absent for one month. A little longer even. But, I haven’t been absent from life. Or the presence of God. Or the joy of spiritual practices. Practices like waiting.
I have to say, I love the church calendar. I love Advent. And Christmastide. I love Lent. And Easter. And Pentecost. And, well, you get it. What I don’t always love is Ordinary Time. See, I love movement and excitement. I love a good celebration, a good party, a good gathering. I thoroughly enjoy any reason to get together with others and celebrate. Your birthday? Party! You bought a house? Party! Your day planner has flowers on it? Mine. Too. Yay! Party. Fun people are my people.
You know what’s hard? Waiting. Ordinary time. Silence. Quiet. But oh is it valuable. I mean, the truth is, is that most of our time is actually spent in the “in between.” Most of our time isn’t Friday night gatherings or once a year birthday celebrations. Most of our time isn’t spent on vacation or getting married or having children. Most of our time is spent in the in between. The waiting.
Not that waiting is bad. It isn’t. Growth happens in the waiting. Change happens in the waiting. Good happens in the waiting. But, we need to learn how to daily engage in our waiting seasons. In our Ordinary Time.
It’s no wonder that waiting is hard. My husband is notorious for not responding to text messages in a timely fashion. When I ask him about messages, he usually tells me how it all went down. Someone texted him during the work day and he was busy, you know, working. And so he responded later. How much later? Oh, maybe a couple of hours. And people tease him. Do you remember the days of waiting a day or so for a return phone call? Not an instantaneous text message. We used to have to wait for things in life. Two hours? That doesn’t qualify for a “he doesn’t like me” conversation. Now, in this crazy consumer driven era I get upset if my purchase does not qualify for free two day delivery. We have drive throughs and fast food and grocery delivery. So many things are fast. So fast. And we don’t have to be still or wait for anything, really.
But what if the waiting is where we learn? What if the waiting is where we become better? What if the waiting is where we become exactly who God had intended us to be?
I think that the spiritual practice of waiting, of our ordinary time, teaches us a few things. First of all, ordinary time teaches us to seek God. When we have no answers, when we’re waiting on good to happen, when we’re waiting for God to fulfill the desires of our heart, we begin to seek him more. I don’t know about you, but as a follower of Christ, I generally expect my answers to come from him. If I’m seeking him for the answers, I’m seeking him more fervently. I’m asking. I’m reading the word. I’m seeing him in others around me. I’m in prayer. Which leads me to the next idea.
Our waiting time teaches us to pray. I don’t know about you, but when I truly desire something, whether it’s healing or deliverance or something for my children, I pray. And pray. I have friends who have been praying for years to have a baby. Or to find their spouse. Or for deliverance from substance abuse. And the prayers don’t stop in the waiting. They don’t give up. No. The prayers get more intense. They may feel rote at times, and they may feel desperate at times. But, overall, they are teaching us what it is like to lean on him.
Lastly, the practice of waiting brings us the joy of seeing Jesus in others. Maybe you aren’t going to get the perfect test result today. Maybe the disease will still come. Maybe the death of your loved one is near. Maybe it’s a tough waiting season. But, in that waiting, you can experience Jesus through his people. The church is a blessing, one that we get to take part in. He gave us the church and prayed for our unity. He still gives of himself through the church and we are blessed in our waiting by his people.
What have you been waiting for? What is your ordinary time like? I think if you sit back for an instant and think about the practice of waiting, you will discover rich blessings that you had never before realized.