The Art of Waiting

Waiting is hard - especially in a world in which instant-gratification is normalized and even expected. I've been conditioned to satisfy my cravings immediately. Feeling hungry? Make something to eat. Too lazy to make something? Order take-out. When I sit to think about it, I realize that I've never really had to wait for anything before - not even at Disneyland! I mean, that's what those coveted fast-passes are all about, right? Skip the line and the wait! Head right up to the front and enjoy that two-minute rollercoaster while everyone else watches jealously. One could argue that fast-passes and ordering take-out are about maximizing time and money and have nothing to do with impatience. But I'd counter with the fact that this American value of "time is money" has seeped so deeply into our lifestyle that we sometimes don't even recognize the extent to which this idea rules our lives. I didn't, at least, until last month.

I've been sitting on this draft for quite some time now. The content remained the same but the approach constantly shifted to reflect my (mostly negative) attitude towards waiting and a disingenuine attempt to optimistically glorify this hated process. So why am I posting this now? My reality hasn't changed. I'm still waiting for my visa and to be fully funded. But what has changed is my attitude towards waiting. 

When I returned from my beloved California a week before Thanksgiving, I was exhausted but excited. After visiting with childhood friends and family, I had reached the halfway mark on both my monthly and one-time needs. I had seen God work miraculously over the last couple of months as He provided ministry partners, housing and food during my travels, and so much more. 

And then it stopped.

The holidays hit, and I saw no progress at all. In fact, some of my donors had to decrease their anticipated monthly amount or switch from monthly to one-time supporters. After quick increases, I saw sudden decreases in both money and time. To say I was discouraged would be an understatement. Doubt and fear creeped in with each day that passed, and I came to the horribly humiliating realization that I wouldn't reach my goal of being fully funded by December 30th and launched by January 15. I questioned if I was even going back to Spain. I felt isolated, as I'm in a new home and a new city with no established community. I felt the loss of my Wheaton community, and though technology helps, it doesn't quite fill the gap of living with and among like-minded people. In all honesty, I spent most of my time moping around, consumed by negative thoughts. But at some point, enough is enough. 

I'm very much a go-getter, and since I couldn't schedule appointments during the holidays, I focused my energy on spiritual formation instead. I began a 60-day Bible study in which I read through the entire Bible in that time. Don't misunderstand; I didn't do this because I was bored and needed something to do. I had decided to do this study weeks before while in California - partially because I had never read through the entire Bible before and partially because of my experience with spiritual warfare. About halfway through that trip, I experienced physical sickness and night terrors immediately after gaining significant donors. Praise God that I've been fine since, but at the time I was so afraid to go to sleep that I slept with my Bible. In tears, sometimes, I read various Psalms until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore. I filled my ears with Christian music. I prayed prayers sent to me from friends. For the rest of that trip, I depended heavily on Scripture and prayer, especially the prayers of others. I had always known Scripture and prayer to be comforts in times of trouble, but this time was different. When I had fully recovered, I promised myself that I would read the entire Bible before my 23rd birthday. It would be perfect. I'd turn 23. A few days later I'd leave for Spain. And I'd begin a new chapter in my life on a high note. But it didn't quite turn out that way.

A week from today I'll be 23. I won't leave for Spain for at least another month (maybe longer). But I have begun a new chapter in my life on a high note. In doing this Bible study, I've learned a lot about waiting. One could loosely sum up the Old Testament as a series of books about waiting for the fulfillment of God's promise to Israel and the New Testament as a series of books about the fulfillment of that promise (and the implications of its fulfillment). This idea was made crystal clear to me during Advent, when my reading took me through the prophets. As I read prophecy after prophecy about the promised king of Israel, I realized that both the Bible and life are full of waiting - waiting for a savior, waiting for winter to end and for spring to come, waiting for that special someone, waiting to graduate, waiting to hear back from that job, waiting to go to Spain.

I'm not accustomed to waiting. In my selfishness, I spent most of the month of December having a pity party because God wasn't working according to my timeline. My impatient eyes failed to see the blessings around me or the ways in which God is working in and around me during this process. Yes, I'm still waiting; but this time, instead of waiting in fear, doubt, anxiety, or anger...

I'm waiting with hope, because just as God provided rain for Noah and a baby for Abraham and Sarah in their old age, I know that my God is faithful to fulfill His promises.

I'm waiting with joy, because just as the Israelites celebrated their arrival to the Promised Land after 40 years in the desert, I know that God's sanctification results in growth and celebration.

I'm waiting with gratitude, because just as the Lord permitted Simeon to see the promised Messiah before his death, I know that my waiting is not in vain but rather an opportunity to see God's goodness and love on a personal level.