Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Waiting in the Rain

This week has been pretty crazy for me, but I'm loving every minute of it, so I've barely noticed how crazy it has been. The coming week promises to be equally, if not more, crazy, as I have two midterms taking place next week, so those should be delightful. As nerdy as it is, I'm actually somewhat excited about my first college midterm. If you know me, you're rolling your eyes now, but you know you love me anyway. By this time next week, I will probably be babbling incoherently about wanaxes, arĂȘte, and Alexander the Great, but I love it all.

This most recent weekend was particularly insane because of work. I don't mean to complain about work - I actually really enjoy my job, almost as much as I enjoy the money. I managed to log 35 hours at the Italian restaurant where I work. (I don't want to type the name because the company gets a notification every time their name is typed online, so they can review everything everyone is saying about them. We've been warned that we can lose our jobs if we disparage the restaurant online. I understand this from a business perspective, but I also find it creepy, controlling, and invasive. In any case, I like my job, other than that aspect, so I'll just tell you that the restaurant starts with a "C" and ends with "arino's.")

Anyway, some of these hours were spent doing to-go food. This includes taking orders, packing up the food, and delivering the food to customers in the cars. Outside. In the middle of a thunderstorm. Then you get to hand them their credit card receipt and wait for them to sign the merchant copy, which evidently takes forever. So you stand. And wait. Outside. In the middle of a thunderstorm.

Needless to say, I was sopping wet, drenched from head to foot, makeup running and hair disheveled. I know this because one of my co-workers was kind enough to inform me of my appearance, and I was compared by different people to a drowned rat, a sad child, and a wet puppy. As cold and wet as I was, though, it was actually kind of fun. The rain was a welcome change from the drought West Texas has been suffering through for an eternity, and the customers felt really bad for me. (Waiting. Outside. In the middle of a thunderstorm.) I ended up raking in plenty of tips. Pity is generous, evidently.

Now onto the melodramatic, thought-provoking application of this post. Don't worry, I'll tie it all back together. 

Recently, I've been thinking quite a bit about knowing the will of God. Wouldn't you know, my personal Bible study tonight was all about inquiring of God, and on waiting for an answer. I was very interested to read about the times when David literally asks God what to do. This being the Old Testament, he (very conveniently) gets what appears to be a clear-cut, yes or no answer, seemingly without having to wait at all, and he is successful in his endeavor. 

So now I'm thinking about inquiring of God. How useful would it be to just get straight answers? Sometimes all I want is a yes or a no! I don't really care which one, just something, anything! Why is it that God doesn't answer me directly? Why can't I see the writing on the wall, or hear His voice ringing through the air? 

Quite frankly, I don't know. Some might answer that it's because there is no one listening, that there is no God. I disagree, with all the love and compassion I have in me. Others might have a deep theological answer, with all sorts of philosophy and theory backing it up. They may be totally right, but I don't know those answers myself. I can pose a few of my own ideas. See what you think.

One possible solution is that He is, in fact, answering me - all the time, every moment. The fact that I am still alive means there is still something else for me to do, even if I don't know what. Perhaps there are things in my life - people, events, words, "coincidences," etc. - that are answers to my questions. Maybe I'm even hearing those answers without my knowledge. 

Another possible solution is that I'm not listening closely enough - that I'm the one hanging up on the conversation. This is definitely a possibility, as I can so easily become so consumed with my own life that I forget - no, not forget - ignore the One who I want to be in charge of it in the first place. 

And then there's a third possibility, just as equally possible, in my opinion, as the first two. Perhaps the first two are not true. Perhaps He is not, in fact, answering me in ways I don't understand. Perhaps I am listening to the greatest extent of my abilities. 

Perhaps He's not answering at all. 

Not yet, at least.

Perhaps He is asking me to wait. 

In 1 and 2 Samuel, it seems as though David gets his answer immediately. He doesn't have to wait. God is there, at a snap of his fingers. But imagine, if you will, that the Bible (inevitably) condenses time a little. (That's a lot of history to fit into a single, albeit heavy, book.) Say David has to chillax for a day or two, or even a few weeks. Say he starts to stress a bit. Say he spend a few nights pacing his throne room. Say he's a little brisk with Abigail when she asks him about her mother coming to the palace next weekend, and say he has to go back and apologize for being rude to her later. Say he chews up the inside of his lip dwelling on the questions he was asking God and waiting desperately for an answer. And say that finally, after waiting an eternity for a rain of words to end the drought of silence, he gets his answer.

Think about how that might affect David's relationship with his Lord. The answer would not be taken for granted whatsoever. The gratitude and relief he must feel would be immeasurable. He would be instantly reminded of his dependance on God in everything. Underneath the message of "pursue this" (1 Samuel 30:6-8) or "go there" (2 Samuel 2:1) is another message, buried behind the logistics and the planning. "I'm here. I haven't left. I am in control, and I know what I'm doing. Don't forget, dear one, that I love you and that I know what is best for you. Wait for me - not because I need time to figure out an answer, or because I want you to suffer, but because you have to learn to trust me."

I think David heard this message, too, even as he bit his nails, even as he wore holes in his sandals from pacing, even as he held his wife's hand and prayed and maybe even cried. I see it in Psalm 38:15 - "Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God," and in Psalm 130:5 - "I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope."

So sometimes you have to wait for an answer. Sometimes you have to stand. Outside. In the middle of a thunderstorm. Eventually, though, you finally get your hands on that tip, and if it's signed by God, then it is priceless.

"The help of God does not come to us when we are indifferent. It comes to the man who is depending on God in the thick of the fight. It comes to the one who tarries for the vision in faith. It comes to the one who believes that he who waits upon the Lord shall never be confounded. It comes to the one who rests upon the promises of the Word. It comes to the one who believes that before he calls, God will answer. It comes to the man who lives by faith as if in the actual possession of the answer to his prayer, although the enemy is still around him. It is faith which turns distress into singing." 
- Alan Redpath, The Making of a Man of God

And, of course, where would a mini-sermon about waiting on God be without Philippians 4:6-7, which is taped to the inside of bathroom stall doors in my dorm? "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." 

Peace out, Girl Scout. 

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