When I was young, I heard a phrase common among Christians:

“God gives three answers to prayer: yes, no, or wait.”

And what I wish is that I had asked more about wait.  I wish we talked more about wait.  I wish that I had experienced the fullness of what wait could mean, often means, for the believer. I wish we discipled people to wait.

Because when I young I sometimes thought wait meant “be patient until the great thing comes along.”  And I thought wait also meant “be still and let God work because He is going to do something incredible.”

And both of those things are true.  But they are true to adult me in ways teenage me could never have grasped.  Probably would never have wanted to grasp, or been capable of grasping.

Because sometimes wait means “settle down in exile in a foreign country and plant gardens and have children there, knowing that you and perhaps they will not see home again before you die, and trusting that God will somehow bring you back to where you belong one day.”

Sometimes wait means “get tricked into marrying the woman you didn’t choose, then work another seven years for the one you did.”

Sometimes wait is Paul describing the tribulations of those faithful to God and acknowledging that they died before seeing the fulfillment of what was promised.

1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love bears all things.  Endures all things.  And this is especially true about the waiting.

Because God also waits.  Creation waits.  We’re all caught up in the wait for the fullness of redemption and we’re also waiting for a thousand other little things in our lives and in the world at large: justice for the oppressed, joy for the brokenhearted, peace for the care-worn. 

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately during Lent, because Lent is novel for the first seven days and then it turns into a slog.  It is a season of reflection and repentance, but it is also a season of waiting, of really leaning into the question: “When, Lord, when?” 

But what I must remember—and I have been reading a lot of N.T. Wright and it’s showing—is that the “When, Lord, when?” is also God’s “now.” Christ has been raised: the kingdom is.  Even now all has been accomplished, and we live in the outworking.  We can only see imperfectly, but time will reveal the fullness of God’s redemptive plan and the glorious transformation that will come. 

We wait—but everything that matters is already here.

I haven’t written about it before now because I couldn’t put words to it, but I had a strange experience at my mother’s funeral.  I was dreading it, because even though the casket would be closed to the public, the family had the opportunity to see her beforehand.  And I didn’t know how it was going to go.

Frankly put: my mother had lost a lot of weight when she died, had looked very sick and very thin, to the degree that she didn’t want a public viewing, and so I anticipated that seeing her would be difficult. 

It wasn’t.  Not just because she looked like herself—which she did, blessedly—but because…she was both there-and-not-there.  When Dad bent over to kiss her forehead and I did too, it was the strangest experience: Mom is not here, but Mom is not gone.  She is present to God and absent to me.

And that’s what it is, to live in the waiting.

It is a strange place of current grief and pending joy.  Where work has to be done, and yet the fullness of labor in love will not be made manifest.  Where God bids us to root down and endure, to bear up, because later…


Then we’ll see it all, and understand, and the me that I will be I will owe, at least in part, to the time that came before.  Because the purpose of the waiting is transformation, a worked revolution of the spirit over time that—only God knows why—cannot occur in any other way.

So we wait.

And we wait with each other.

And that’s what makes the waiting bearable.


2 thoughts on “Enduring.

  1. “The purpose of the waiting is transformation” is a whole new perspective on waiting that teenage me never understood either, perhaps not even 20’s me or 30’s me….I’m hoping 50’s has got more of a handle on it! Great post.


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