The Posture of Hope

So much of our life is made up of waiting.

In elementary school, at the end of the day, I waited at the doors with my face smushed up against the window.  I was looking for my mother’s familiar blue Escort: the promise of freedom and home.

At my wedding, I waited outside the closed church doors with my very nervous father.  He was uncomfortable in his suit, but he managed to tease me into laughing anyway.  I stood clutching my bouquet, waiting for the wedding music to begin.

At my doctoral graduation ceremony, I waited with hundreds of other scholars in an auditorium packed with people.  My robes were scratchy, the positioning of my cap precarious, and my neck ached from turning my head to see my husband and parents in the audience.  I kept my eyes fixed on the stage and waited for my name to be called so that I could walk up with my dissertation chair, who would hood me.

When my mother went into the hospital, when she disappeared into the labyrinth of rooms and we didn’t know where she was or what was happening, I laid wide-awake in bed as hours passed, waiting, and kept rolling over to stare at the bright screen of my phone, willing a text to appear.

Today, I keep reloading a local website to see if vaccination appointments are available in my area.  Refresh, nothing.  Refresh, nothing.

We all do so much waiting.

We wait for good things to begin and we wait for bad things to end; we wait for what is next, and we wait for what is happening to be over.  We wait for what is hoped for; we wait for what is hoped against.  We wait.  We wait.  We wait.

This is the posture of the believer.

One of the Old Testament verses that resonates the most with me comes from 2 Chronicles 20.  Jehoshaphat wakes up to war and invasion; the Moabites, the Ammonites, and some Meunites have allied to wage war and are already in En Gedi.  The Bible says that Jehoshaphat is alarmed; he calls a fast for all of Judah and offers a desperate prayer before an equally desperate assembly.  He ends the prayer not with a rousing call to hope or a strong cry of confidence, but this:

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

That image always catches my breath: Jehoshaphat and his people, eyes turned to heaven, bodies still.  There’s nothing to do.  There’s nothing they can do.  There’s no call to arms, no promise of victory, just a gigantic army at the doorstep.  The people turn their eyes to heaven and they wait for a response.

This Easter, we will rejoice to celebrate victory in Christ and the hope of the resurrection.  But we also all know, as though we could forget, that we have yet to witness the fullness of God’s plan.  Christ has come; Christ has died; Christ has risen.  Christ will return.

But until then, we wait.   And we meet God in the waiting.

Look to me, God says, look at me.  Keep your eyes fixed on the throne of Heaven.  This is what Stephen saw, as he died.  This is from whence Jehoshaphat’s help came.  This is where the prophets and those who suffer turn to ask, how long?  This is what Peter lost sight of when he noticed the frothing waves and began, in his terror, to sink. 

The world teaches us that life begins after waiting.  Christ teaches us that the waiting is where God transforms us for new life.  The waiting is this life.  Christ has come and we have been redeemed, but now we wait for God to fulfill His promise to make all things new.

The posture of the believer is this: to be still, to kneel or weep or stand as circumstances demand, but to lock your eyes on God in expectation of what will come.

I don’t write that lightly.  It is a hard thing. 

Hebrews 11 sometimes haunts me.  At the end of his famous ‘Hall of Faith,’ Paul writes, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

Yet none of them received what had been promised.  They died in expectation, waiting.  Many us of will die in expectation, waiting. 

But waiting isn’t the tragedy, actually.

Waiting is only a tragedy when what you’re waiting for never comes.

I waited at school—and the blue Escort showed up in the parking lot every single day.  I waited—and the music started to float me down the aisle.  I waited—and eventually they called my name at graduation.  I waited—and my phone finally lit up with a text to tell me where my mother was and how she was feeling.

And the truth is that we have no real understanding of what we are waiting for.  We can’t fathom it.  When Job finally came to the end of his waiting and encountered the entirety of God, the encounter transformed him utterly.  “I know my Redeemer lives,” he says earlier in the book, and yet at the end must confess, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”  We don’t understand how transformative redemption will be in its fullness.  Sinners ourselves, saved by Christ, we lack the ability to imagine the barest shadow of what might possibly be.  We can see only enough—enough to know it will be beyond our wildest dreams.

But the Holy Spirit says: what you have waited for will come.

And the broken, fractured church that Christ has left to carry His bruised name into the world should, at its best, remind those who long and stumble: what you have waited for will come.

The Scriptures we bear, the martyrs who shed blood in the name of Christ, those who suffer even now in darkness and silence, strengthened themselves with the truth of it: what you have waited for will come.

And on Easter itself, we remember that the disciples waited, that the world waited, perhaps for they knew not what—and Christ defeated death and returned to them.

Keep your posture of waiting, and bless it.  This waiting is holy. 

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Happy Easter.

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