LESSONS LEARNED ON THE GO (3/5): Waiting
2017 was a year that started and finished with high expectations and a lot of waiting. Discipling others on the go requires trusting God and waiting, watching, and walking where the Spirit is leading. I love and believe this statement with all my heart, yet if I am honest, I like to live in the "watching" and "walking" parts more than "waiting".
The lesson that I am learning is that waiting is a vital component and my (and your) ability to bear fruit in waiting is fully about our heart and posture in waiting.
I think my lessons in waiting were learned in three acts, each act summed up by a quote. Perhaps you can relate to this simple narrative? Or maybe, you are stuck in one of the acts and long to see God move the play along for you.
Act 1 - "What are we waiting for?" - Mickey (Rocky II)
You know the scene. Well, if you're from Philadelphia you HAVE TO know the scene. It is played before every Eagles' home game and the bellowing sound of those bells fills Lincoln Financial Field on every third down stand our defense puts up (you can listen for it this weekend in the NFC Championship game).
This scene is Rocky coming to his wife, Adrian, in the hospital after she gave birth to their son. His trainer, Mickey, is there with them. Rocky, overcome with the emotion of the birth of his child and love for his wife, tells her that if she doesn't want him to fight a rematch with Apollo Creed (spoiler alert: he lost the first time), he won't.
Adrian asks him to do something for her. Rocky leans in closer. "Win," she says, "win!"
The camera focuses on Mickey in the background who shouts (as only Burgess Meredith could sound), "What are we waiting for!"
Begin training montage.
January 2017 began with so much hope and confidence in what our new community was walking in. We had a growing number of people hungry to follow Jesus and an overwhelming number of people in our networks of relationships to disciple. It appeared that the opportunity was clearly there to walk in what the Spirit had (love and disciple people and see new church families form).
"What are we waiting for?" was the question that seemed to fill our hearts as we entered into a discipling montage that would rival any of Rocky's training.
But our montage seemed to end in disappointment and confusion for many. People's priorities changed, their lives got complicated, and life just happened.
For one reason or another, many of the co-laborers around us chose to participate in more established church families, leaving my wife and kids alone to continue to love and disciple the people around us.
While we continued to walk in many of the same things, we returned to waiting for others to link arms with us and walk in this together.
Act 2 - "The waiting is the hardest part" - Tom Petty
With a desire to see a new church family form and with many amazing spiritual conversations around us, I confess that I was confused as to why other believers weren't joining in with us at that time. There were definitely times of self-pity and doubt and a lot of prayer.
My constant love affair with the law was revealed, mercifully, yet again. I was stuck in this tension between knowing that waiting on God is good, yet believing that I should get exactly what I wanted anyway.
"I've done everything you asked me to do, Father why can't we have people to run with us right now?" I found myself selfishly asking. You see, in this instance, I believed that I had earned better than what I was experiencing.
Tom Petty was right. Waiting is the hardest part. But it's the hardest part mainly because we don't believe we SHOULD have to wait. Our knee-jerk reflex is to not only question but to challenge when things don't go the way we expect. And when it comes to waiting on God, we often assume it's a negative to overcome (redouble our efforts, try harder, do something more). My point is we often look past the waiting as the benefit and seek to find solutions to circumnavigate God's loving act of teaching us to wait.
I remember the first time I read through the Bible and saw God did not speak to His people during the 400 years of history between the Old Testament and the New. I was irritated by this. I assumed that God was pulling some kind of power trip here. Do you see what happened there? I instantly transferred my own experience with people's motivation for ignoring me onto God. I assumed His divine motivation based on broken human experience. "What is God trying to gain by playing this cosmic silent treatment?"
But the Father isn't like me and you in our twisted motivations. He always does what is good, right, and perfect. He is holy. It's not fair to Him or to me to assign my motivations for His actions. It's not fair to Him because He is above me. Humans are made in His image, not the other way around. And it's not fair to me because it would put a weight of responsibility on my shoulders that I am not meant to bear.
Recognizing that God gets to be God and I don't have to, opens up the possibility for times of waiting to be for my good. I need not doubt the situation I find myself in. I don't have to blame myself or others. I can rest in the time of waiting and spend it watching for where He is working and walk in that.
Recognizing our humanity and the Father's love for the least, last, lost, and lowest (us) transforms our posture toward times of waiting into enjoying the resurrection life Jesus has afforded us.
Act 3 - “I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.” - CS Lewis
As 2017 marched on, I found myself learning the truth in these words from my longtime mentor CS Lewis. God had kept us waiting in some areas because it was good for us to wait in those areas. Rather than trying to overcome these obstacles from our goals, I began to see waiting as the roadmap for my calling.
Sure, I would love to see many people join in with us to love and disciple the massive number of people in need in our city. I'd love to have a large number of brothers to walk this out with on the ground. That will always be my unwavering hope and desire. Yet this, like all things, is not ultimately on me to accomplish. It's not my burden to bear or thing to "make happen." It is better for everyone if I wait on God rather than wait on me to "pull things off."
You see, the freedom I've found in waiting is growing in my humanity and dying to the idol of performance. I don’t have to overcome the waiting becomes I am not supposed to. The end result is living the beautiful life of both resting and walking in the Spirit.