This is very serious, everyone… It has become very clear to me that I have a condition. I’m itchy, achy, restless. I don’t want to go to a doctor—sterilized rooms terrify me. I don’t want to take some medication—I’m sort of extremely averse to pill taking. I don’t need to go to a psychologist—one, I’m poor and two, I know what’s wrong with me: I want it to rain.
Have you ever wanted something so bad it hurt?
Craved it so much that your every waking moment itched with this desire? My very cells are abuzz with the energy of longing. When I think of rain, which has been noticeably absent in Nicaragua these past 5 months, my eyes water and my heart races. I’m expectant, waiting, yearning. And it hurts.
I bet this is what it felt like to be the Israelites wandering that dusty, dry, joy-sucking desert for 40 years. I bet this is what it felt like for Abraham and Sarah as they waited into their old age for their promised baby. I bet this is what it felt like for the Jews living in exile in Babylon, longing for their beloved Jerusalem. I bet this is what it felt like for families separated by the Berlin Wall before 1989. I bet this is what it feels like for displaced migrants who can’t return to their home due to the overwhelming presence of violence. I bet this is what it feels like for Christians who are waiting for Jesus’ Second Coming.
Waiting is itchy, achy, and extremely restless.
Waiting ever so (not)patiently can also make a person go crazy. As I sit here writing this, I feel like I’m having an anxiety attack or something. My heart is racing too fast like I just finished a coffee drinking marathon. Even worse, waiting can start to make you imagine things are happening. Take for example my rather unstable reaction yesterday: I was sitting on my way-too-comfortable couch, answering some emails, surfing the interwebs when all of the sudden I stopped typing mid-word. Like a tidal wave hitting shore, the smell of “wet” hit my senses: somewhere nearby there was a wet piece of earth calling out to me. I got up from the couch (probably with a crazed look in my eye) and ran to my front porch. No sign of raindrops outside. No sign of a neighbor watering his garden in a nasty attempt at teasing me. No puddles, no wet spots, no water main break, nothing. I ran to the garden in the middle of our house. No sign of rain there either. And no sign that my roommates had watered the plants. I ran to our back patio. The same lack of wetness greeted me. Confused, I paused. No, I wasn’t imagining things—I still smelled wet earth. I looked up into the sky and darkened gray clouds taunted my gaze. I glared back at them accusingly. I went back into the house and, due to the presence of confused and concerned looks from my roommates, I explained my strange behavior. Admitting defeat, I fell into a heap on the couch and tried not to think about what didn’t happen.
Waiting is the worst punishment. Ever.
So why did God make his people wait so much in the Bible? Why does he make us wait so much today? What is he trying to teach us?
I’m no magic-8 ball, but I have a sneaky suspicion that God’s many lessons in patience-training teach us a myriad of things. Waiting teaches me to place my trust in something other than myself since the current situation is way beyond my control to change anything. It teaches me to have faith that the present reality is not static and will change. It teaches me to have hope in the future, that the coming changes will bring with it relief and restoration. It teaches me to find contentment in the now, to find joy in the present situation no matter how bleak. It teaches me to be prepared for whatever is coming, to expect surprises, to anticipate the unknown.
But these lessons will pass me on by if my focus is narrowly honed in on complaining about how hard waiting is. If I want to not be miserable in this wait and learn what God is teaching me, then I need to look at my situation, throw my hands in the air, yell “plot twist!”, and dive back into living life to the fullest.
So today, I am going to try and embrace this wait I find myself in.
I am going to move forward in the knowledge that I have found my wilderness, my 40 years in the desert. And I’m going to live it out in the faith and hope and belief that change is indeed coming. Someday.