Spiritual Disciplines, Waiting

Yesterday I taught a Holy Yoga class on Exodus 33 - the story of a conversation between Moses and God about entering into the Promised Land. God tells Moses that he's going to send an angel before them to drive out the people who inhabit the land. He's going to pave a road for them into the Promised Land, but he's not going with them. They are so stubborn, so willful and hard-headed - he's going to withdraw his Presence, but he'll make good on his promise of land, and wealth, and greatness.

Moses, who was called by God out of being obsolete, out of hiding and simply existing, essentially says, "No." It's not an option. He says, "If your Presence doesn't go with us, we're not going."

We'd rather live in the desert forever if that's where you are.

We'd rather live in liminal space, in limbo, in constant waiting. Nothing is worth the absence of the Presence of God.

Moses, who had lived without the voice of God, without interaction with God, for most of his life, now can't take a single step into rest and peace without Him.

Because once you've tasted that the Lord is good, there's nowhere else to go.

Which is why Waiting is a Spiritual Discipline. I've never seen it listed with other disciplines, but the Bible is overflowing with people who literally had to practice Waiting.

Noah on his boat.

Abraham and Sarah and the baby who came so late.

Esther and her multiple dinners and requests before she gets to the point.

David and his throne.

Nehemiah and his longing to rebuild Jerusalem.

All of Israel for 400 years after the last prophet until the arrival of John the Baptist.

Jesus for the first 30 years of his human existence.

I'm sure you could add more to the list right this second. It's everywhere. We're all waiting, friends. We're waiting on The Promised Land, whatever that is. We're waiting for life to get easier, relationships to get less messy, parenting to get less ridiculous, the day we'll sleep through the night again, the right job to take shape, health to become a reality. We're waiting for answers, for questions that make sense, for hope to appear, for love to really be enough.

We're waiting.

Sometimes we're not waiting well. Waiting is a practice because we aren't prone to waiting with flair.

Sometimes we get frustrated. We demand and push and strive and force. We blame circumstances and people and, even God, for the length and cost of waiting. We sink into our own misery and barely survive the process. We grumble, like the Israelites in the desert.

The invitation that lies in the practice of Waiting is this: relinquish. Find a tiny bit of shade in the middle of your desert, cross your legs, straighten your spine, close your eyes, breathe. Wait. Listen to the sound of the desert around you. Listen to the ebb and flow of life. Live the experience. Embrace the King who led you here to deliver you. Remember that, what you left behind, was bondage. Slavery. In that old space you longed for freedom. You are living in freedom right now, in the Waiting. Seas have been parted, enemies conquered, nourishment provided. The Presence of God has tangibly led you.

So sit. Use your new practice of Silence to still your angry thoughts. This space of Waiting will serve you well. This is where the old behaviors, old struggles, old idols, old sicknesses will be purged and buried. This is where new life will spring up from dry rocks and cracked ground. This is where the sun will bleach your bones and leave you clean again. This is where change happens.

Henri Nouwen said, "A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us."

Something hidden here will manifest itself to you.

Maybe that something will be the realization that you are now the kind of person who would rather live in the desert with the Presence of God than enter into the Promise without Him.

Maybe you're not the same person you were when you first stepped foot into this Waiting space. Maybe the practice has reshaped you.

*What about you, friend? Are you in a season of Waiting? Do you find it hard to practice patience?

*September 2013