Waiting can be one of the most frustrating things in the world. Waiting in a queue. In traffic. For an appointment. For that slow download or system update. Remember those days as a child, waiting for your birthday and Christmas? Waiting was painful!! We humans are not really very good at waiting.
But God seems to quite like waiting. In fact he often invites us into the Waiting Room of life. Partly because it’s not time yet, but also because it’s often good to wait. That’s because we’re changed in the waiting.
There’s sometimes an impatience in me that wants to rush ahead. Occasionally that can be the right thing to happen because the moment needs to be seized, and the moment is now! But more often, important things take time and I need to wait. Like waiting for a baby to be born.
Having five children, I know something about the joy of discovering a baby is on the way, followed then by months and months of waiting. Of course we know that those 9 months are crucial for the development of the baby, but they’re also important for the parents. Parents are changed in the waiting.
I’ve been reminded of this over the last few days whilst reading and re-reading the early chapters of Luke’s gospel.
During Elizabeth’s pregnancy with John, John’s father, the old man Zechariah, is struck dumb. Imagine not being able to speak for 9 months! We’re not told why or what was happening inside Zechariah, but we can presume that this humbling experience is transforming him into more of the man, priest, husband and father that God has called him to be. Zechariah is changed in the waiting.
Elizabeth herself is an elderly woman when she becomes pregnant with this miracle baby. Luke tells us that once pregnant ‘she remained in seclusion for 5 months.’ Why? Maybe she was worried she might lose the baby, especially in the early months, and so wanted to be alone. We don’t really know. But what we do know is that after this period of isolation, her young cousin Mary comes to visit and Elizabeth experiences the Holy Spirit and prophesies over Mary. She is so transformed by all this that after John is born she supports her husband in naming the baby against the social convention of the day (ie. naming first-born sons after the father). Elizabeth is changed in the waiting.
It’s the same for Mary. Having been visited by the angel and told of the baby she was to supernaturally conceive, Mary travelled a long distance to visit Elizabeth. She too has an experience of the Spirit resulting in her composing an inspired and beautiful worship song! She stays with her cousin for 3 months which no doubt helped prepare and shape her for her future. If Mary was still there when John was born, that too would have greatly impacted her. On arrival back home, Mary was probably showing signs of being pregnant. Being unmarried and pregnant in first century Palestinian culture would have been difficult and dangerous so it’s probable that she, like her cousin went into some kind of seclusion to escape ridicule. Her 9 months in the Waiting Room of life were transformative. Mary is changed in the waiting.
Understanding this should help us to view waiting differently. If waiting really does change us then we can see it much more positively and even be proactive in inviting the Lord to use waiting time constructively.
Are you in the waiting room? Waiting for something in your life? In your family? Your workplace? Your church? Your city? Instead of frustration, see the waiting through a new lens.
Be changed in the waiting.