Been talking to a lot of people lately who are “waiting” or in “holding patterns” or “anxious” in their lives. Basically, folks looking for what’s next. I feel very much the same way…most of the time.
However, I have to continually remind myself that no matter what stage I’m in, there is always one behind me and one ahead of me. We never leave stages. They are inherently part of life, yet we always feel pressure (by ourselves or others) to get to the next one. Why is this? Maybe this is why patience is a virtue.
Now I can understand the pressure to move forward because I’m a driven sort of person. Standing still can often feel like moving backwards. I’d rather go out of my way two hours in traffic than sit still. I just want to be moving. But I can also rush into things, move ahead before I am probably ready. In the traffic scenario, which is actually the waste? What is being wasted? Time? Gas? Patience? And coming from a theater background, it seems I would love to always have a stage. I mean, I’ve got the costumes, for goodness sake. Sadly, even I grow tired of them. Stages can be no fun if you don’t know your lines.
One particular stage I’ve been in for about two years now. I didn’t see it coming and I am pretty cloudy about the end date as well. Ain’t that just the way? However, if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that there is plenty to do while waiting. I’ve definitely been in stages where I just wasted time. I was angry or bitter or bored or something. And I saw the stage as a waste of my time, so my sharp logic just told me to stare right back and waste away with it. That’ll teach it! No PhD here, folks. But I’m happy to say that as I’ve matured, I’ve been better at utilizing the waiting time. I am more aware of the benefits of the stage, using them as preparation rather than stagnation. After all, what a shame it would be to grow to the next stage having learned nothing from the current one. That’s the real waste. And it probably means I won’t get all I can from the next one either. I’m setting up a negative chain reaction.
Recently, I started going through the workbook Experiencing God again. (TANGENT: This Bible study changed my life the first time I did it a couple years ago, and it’s currently doing it again. It’s amazing and I highly recommend it if you’d like to grow and mature in your relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.) Last night’s lesson was entitled “God Speaks with a Purpose.” In it, Henry Blackaby notes, “God develops character to match the assignment. Do not assume, however, that the moment God calls you, you are prepared for the assignment. Many of us don’t want to give attention to the development of our character; we just want God to give us a big assignment. But if you are not willing to be faithful in a little, God will not give you larger assignments.” Ok, ouch Blackaby, now it’s just getting personal! Guilty as charged, more often than I care to admit.
As I’ve gone through the workbook, though, the action step I come away with over and over again in relation to this stage is “wait and listen.” Frustrating still, because I’m a doer. I’m good at getting things done. But if my desire is to do God’s Will, I guess I’ll have to wait and listen. And that is my desire. So I’m trying my best to be an active listener. God isn’t calling me to sit and do nothing. I need to look around and see how He is working on my character in this stage. I am trying my hardest to take the small assignments and be faithful in them. Sure, like everyone, I want the big assignments. I pray repeatedly, though, that that desire is not for my own glory, but His. And I want to play my part in His story. I want the assignments He wants for me. I don’t want to waste time and miss out. Sometimes it’s those small assignments that actually stay with me the longest, affect me the most or offer a shared experience with someone close. I really do believe, just as there are no small parts in theater, there are no small assignments in God’s Kingdom. I mean, I still get to play a role in the Creator of the Universe’s story! How could there be a small assignment there? I’m a part of the plan of salvation, the ministry of reconciliation!
Blackaby also pointed out not to assume that the moment you are called, you will be prepared. Therefore, the current (and next) stage requires active listening as well. In fact, it may very well be this preparation and growth that not only elevates you to the next stage, but makes you crave it. And I think this is an encouraging thought. It would then mean that waiting is directly correlative to advancement. And what could be wasteful about that? Ironic. Counter-intuitive. Cool. That’s a stage I can play on. That’s a stage I can really live in, and love living in.
So, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to my waiting. It’s a busy time for me, and I’m sure you understand. (Let me know how yours goes, too.)