Waiting Sucks! aka My Impatient Soul
We live in Vancouver, British Columbia. We moved here this past summer from Columbus, Ohio to plant a new Vineyard church in the city. We are discovering that everything in Vancouver is very expensive, including groceries. So about once a month, we drive south for an hour to shop at this magical place called Trader Joe’s in Bellingham, Washington. This is where we get Joe-Joe’s. It’s just like Oreos, only way better. It has the perfect amount of sweetness and crunch. For only $2.99. Say what?!? This is not the only reason we drive for an hour to shop at Trader Joe’s. But it’s mostly why.
Having made this trip about six times now, we are very familiar with the border crossing routine. You get your passports ready. You make sure you remember your home address and your name. You turn to your kids and firmly remind them how important it is that they smile at the officer. This is the easy part. The hardest part is in the waiting.
Whether it’s ten minutes or one hour, waiting makes you question everything. “Do I still look like my passport photo? How many kids do we have? What’s our wedding anniversary again?” Your heart races faster and faster, “Why can’t I remember my stupid phone number? Or the words to the Star Spangled Banner?”
Crossing the border has always gone smoother than the worse case scenario that I envision in my mind. But, there’s something about the wait that makes me stupid, anxious, and fearful. Waiting sucks!
Lucky for us, as brand new church planters in Vancouver, most of our life right now involves waiting. Waiting for opportunities to make new friends. Waiting for the right people to join our launch team. Waiting for the right time to start our public gatherings. Waiting. And this waiting is way harder than I thought it would be.
Like waiting to cross the border, my mind races to weird places with God in the waiting: “Do I have what it takes to actually plant a church? Do You think these people will like me? Where is the launch team that we have been praying for? God, did You really call us to Vancouver?” And if I’m not careful, this is when my stupidity, anxiety, and fear can kick in and cause me to do things that I shouldn’t, only to end up where God isn’t.
In the book of Genesis, God comes to Abraham and promises to bless him with a child. His wife, Sarah, was barren. They were both old in age. So this whole scenario was impossible. They are forced to wait. And this is when they get stupid, anxious, and fearful. Sarah decides to take matters into her own hands and tells Abraham to sleep with her slave, Hagar. Nine months later, Ishmael is born. And they end up where God isn’t.
But lucky for us, God always finds us and calls us back to himself!
Abraham is one-hundred years old and Sarah is ninety when she gives birth to Isaac. Just as God promised!
In this day and age where speed is a god, it is tempting to think that our inability to wait is simply a byproduct of social trends and generational shifts. But that’s not it. Our inability to wait is not about what’s happening around us. It’s about what’s happening inside of us. My impatient soul has an addiction to control. So when things feel out of control, my impatient soul does what it does best – tunnel vision kicks in and we take matters into our own hands. And even when I know that this control is just an illusion, the pursuit of it still offers just enough to reward to keep the illusion alive. This habit loop is deeply ingrained in every single person. This is why waiting is so hard!
I am not one-hundred years old yet, so I don’t know what it’s like to wait for Isaac like Abraham did. I haven’t wandered in the desert for 40 years, so I don’t now what it’s like to wait for the Promised Land like the Israelites did. But I have experienced the normal waiting that is common to our human experience – waiting to hear if I got the job or not; waiting to discover if we’re having a boy or a girl; waiting to find out if it’s cancer or not. But normal waiting is just as hard as the waiting that we read about in the Bible. The only difference is that we have the benefit of knowing how those Bible stories end.
This where faith comes in. Faith and waiting go hand-in-hand. Faith is trusting. Faith is hoping. But faith is also waiting! It’s about waiting on God to fulfill His promises, in His time, in His way. Waiting on God is not giving up, but giving in. Waiting on God is not inactive, but an activity that takes everything that you have. That’s why we read in Psalm 130:5, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope.”
You are probably waiting now for me to tell you three things that you should do to become better at waiting. Sorry. You’re going to have to wait for someone else to do that. What I do have are three questions for you to consider:
1. What are you waiting for today?
2. What are you tempted to do because waiting is so hard?
3. What does your faith in God demand of you in the waiting?
How you process and answer these three questions will determine whether you have an Ishmael or an Isaac.
As a church planter in Vancouver, I am waiting for God to establish His church in the heart of this great city. I believe with all of my heart that I am exactly where I should be. But that doesn’t make the waiting any easier. The waiting is incredibly hard because I can be stupid, anxious, and fearful. So I am often tempted to rush ahead and make things happen so that I can send a good report to my boss, so that I can look good on paper, so that I can say that I am a successful church planter. Maybe people will notice. Maybe I will feel this great sense of accomplishment and worth. Just maybe.
But my faith in God tells me that I can only do what I see the Father doing. And in order for me to see what the Father is doing, I must wait, and I must pray. So, I find myself walking all over the streets of Vancouver praying, “Father, what are You doing in Vancouver? Father, how do You want me to serve You here? Father, let Your Kingdom come, let Your will be done here in Vancouver as it is in heaven! Father, teach me how to wait on You so that I don’t end up where You are not!”
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. - Psalm 27:14