My son turned 16 this weekend and to his delight passed the behind the wheel driving test and got his driver’s license. I’m not nearly as scared about this as people would assume. He’s a conscientious and cautious driver. He’s not your average teenager so this is a big accomplishment.
Luke is a bit of dreamer and he’s been talking about all sorts of big plans he has related to driving. Of course he doesn’t have a car yet so I don’t worry too much about some of his more outrageous plans like driving to wherever Metallica is performing so he can see a show. On a more realistic scale his ideas about taking friends to lunch caught my attention. Luke somehow forgot the rules that apply to new drivers. One of those is a six month waiting period during which a 16 year old driver cannot carry any passengers under the age of 21 other than a sibling.
When I reminded Luke about this waiting period he was shocked. He’d completely forgotten and ever since then it’s all we’ve heard about. His poor little brother can hardly stand it. He’s a bit of a rule cop so he is willing to go head to head with his big brother on this whereas I just want the conversation to end. It is what it is and I feel no need to protest the waiting period or even discuss the pros and cons of it. I stop their discussions with one of my famous Mom sayings, “Good things come to those who wait.” My comment doesn’t help Luke at all because the year between getting your permit and your license is a long one. He thinks he’s ready for full driving privileges and to him the waiting period is agony. To me this is a trivial matter.
The irony with this is that I’m struggling with my own waiting period right now. It feels like there is an ocean that lies between my heartache, the circumstances around it, and the healing I want God to bring. At times the water is calm only to have the tide change and the waves stir up. It’s a myth to believe that God will only lead you beside still waters. We are also led through turbulent waters.
Waiting through your storms is a discipline that requires a great deal of endurance. I know this because I’m not new to the waiting game. I’ve been waiting on God for a lot of things in my life and the lives of my kids. Good stuff like healing not a Porsche or something silly like that. With so many waiting lists this year when Lent started I knew that I didn’t have what it would take to give something up so I didn’t and yet I’m so ready for Lent to be over I can’t stand it. I’ve somehow convinced myself that when Lent is over there will be some cosmic shift that brings an end to waiting for me along with everyone who actually gave something up. It’s not very logical thinking of course.
In ancient times the Lenten season was a time of preparation for new converts to the Christian faith. The early church recognized that it was not easy being a Christian. Believers faced persecution and pagan temptations. It was a 40 day period of time that encouraged prayer, penitence, almsgiving, and self-denial. The purpose of which was to die to the old way of life so that a new identity could emerge. Originally only new converts were expected to observe Lent in these ways but with explosive church growth all believers were later asked to observe Lent to show solidarity. Maybe this is why I’m aching for Lent to be over? I’m aligning myself with all those folks who are so desperate to get back to chocolate, coffee, or booze. I haven’t given up any of these things but I’ve let go of quite a few other things hoping for breakthroughs and I want one.
But it’s hard the waiting because we want our questions answered, problems solved, and uncertainty to end quickly. We want our victories sooner not later so that we can move on to our celebrations. We want to be a completely new person overnight and it doesn’t happen that way. There are no shortcuts. All through the scriptures we see waiting. Forty days here and there and in some cases 40 years of waiting and all this waiting has a rhythm. We wait and in the fullness of time we see the fruit that comes from it. Waiting it seems provides the time and space for personal transformation.
Lent is the perfect example of how we wait in chronological time for God to arrive in “kairos” time. That is to say we wait through our days for God to show Himself in our circumstances according to His perfect timing. Kairos is that opportune moment when all things are poised to converge. In kairos time you are typically so absorbed in life that you’ve lost track of the clock ticking.
What makes observing Lent a little easier than observing life is that we know it will end. Its 40 days. If you’ve been fasting and struggling through it you know a day is coming when you get to break your fast. If you’ve added a discipline to your life and it’s proving harder than you thought by day 20 you know you’ve only got 20 more. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Easter Sunday arrives, metaphorically speaking God shows up, and you get to let go because your season of waiting is over. Lesson learned and now you move on.
If only all the other seasons of our lives’ worked this way! Wouldn’t it be nice to know that after you’d waited in agony forty days your situation would be resurrected? God would arrive on the scene in a big splashy way and change the trajectory of your life. If it worked this way could we call it “wading” rather than “waiting”?
When you’re wading you are only partly immersed or sunken. You’re not buried and you can see that you’re headed toward something. Whether its 40 days or 40 years if you know when a tough season is going to end you are much more likely to be able to bear it. Wading is done in shallow water but waiting is done out in the deep and that takes a lot more faith.
To be still in times of adversity requires a great strength but to tread water and stay afloat during a hard season requires a greater strength. When we are called to work under stress, press on under hardship and smile when our hearts are grieved while at the same time performing our daily tasks – this takes a faith that moves mountains. It’s a faith that is transcendent and rises above our circumstances.
To wait in chronological time for those kairos moments where you see and feel God move requires keeping your eye on the horizon. I wonder if this is what the writer of Hebrews was suggesting when he encouraged believers to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” To “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right had of the throne of God.”
Nothing is said about skipping the cross part or the heartache it brings. The focus is on persevering and fixing our eyes on something beyond ourselves. I suppose that’s what’s different about wading and waiting. When you’re wading you can keep your head down and see the bottom without drowning but when you are waiting you simply have to keep your eyes fixed on that vantage point out ahead.
For me this year it’s got to be that picture in my mind of the stone rolled away and a crushed man risen from the dead. When I go to church on Easter Sunday and the pastor says, “He is risen” and the congregation answers, “He is risen indeed” my waiting list isn’t going to be eliminated but HOPEFULLY my perspective will be elevated. That can be enough if I’m willing to lift my head and fix my eyes on the glory set before me. It’s not a bad thing to be a lady in waiting. In fact, in the royal court it is an honor to wait on a King and maybe that’s where we actually find our victories?