Sunday, December 14, 2014

Waiting for that second marshmallow

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I have perplexity in my mind, and grief in my heart, day after day? Psalm 13:1

But I put my trust in your mercy; my heart is joyful because of your saving help. I will sing to the LORD, for He has dealt with me richly; I will praise the Name of the LORD Most High. Psalm 13:5

It’s all about the wait. The distance between the first and last verse of David’s psalm. The long distance.

Somehow the couple lighting the advent candles last night developed the theme of joy by detailing the oft-repeated 40-year longitudinal Stanford University study demonstrating the power and strengthening of delayed gratification.  I mean, if you as a four-year-old can wait fifteen minutes before eating your first marshmallow, it is likely that your SAT scores will be almost 300 points higher.

Then Jon Phillips taught last night about embracing the wait from Luke 1, and the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and their long waiting. A waiting filled with lack of provision, shame, and haunted by impossibility.

Jon asked, What are you longing for God to do for you? Are you willing to turn it into What are You longing from Me? Often waiting seems like a time of suffering. But the good news for us is that God steps into these places of waiting to reveal Himself and His love. And unfortunately we often greet His provision with, What took You so long? And the truth is that through the wait, we get to be part of God’s bigger plan, just as how the long-awaited baby John was the prophesized One to come in the spirit and power of Elijah. God does things according to His plan to make clear that it is from Him, and not is of us and our power and strength. To embrace waiting is to wait for that which is not of me, but of God.

Zechariah’s immediate response was unbelief. But God moved forward anyways. His plan does not depend on our faith. We get insight into what God does through this process of waiting by reading Zechariah’s response: Blessed be the name of the LORD God.

A story from Jon’s life began when Kirsten went in for her four-month ultrasound. And there was a problem, that the child’s kidney was filling up with water, and most likely the child would die before birth, and if he would be born, he would most likely lose his kidney. In the midst of this, Jon had a crisis of faith, a mixed feeling of God is able to heal my son with that whispering doubt of Would He work in my life? And the doctors kept marveling at the swelling kidney, which Jon compared to being like a grapefruit while the other kidney was like a pea, and of course that made Jon feel worse. And Kirsten wanted to call the boy Zachary, which means Remembered by God. And Jon wasn’t feeling very remembered. But then the graduating Intervarsity seniors came in and prayed for Zachary, and the next day he was totally well. In the midst of that waiting and that suffering Jon learned all about God is with me, He sees me in my need.

Jon’s invitation to us in this time of advent is Look for what God wants to give you of Himself. This might not necessarily be what I think I want, but really, it is want I do profoundly long for, Him. We are to invite God into this place of pain and see what He might do. And the other more important thing is that the world needs people like us, people who know how to wait. As we go into our own suffering, He also wants us to look around us, and see where our story is needed to give hope to our neighbor.

Closing question: Are you willing to look for God’s work in the midst of your suffering, and are you willing to sit in the suffering of the world?

So, I don’t know when it happened exactly, but there has been a shift in my heart. And I don’t know whether it was during Nicholas’s after-dinner chat about our identity in God’s love being the key to sharing that love with the world, or really, maybe even if that mysterious rainbow arching across the sky yestermorning led to a fabled pot of gold.

But as Cameron and his band led us through U2’s question, which of course also was the question in today’s fixed-hours morning office, I could with an undivided heart answer: I will sing, sing a new song.

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

He set my feet upon a rock
And made my footsteps firm
Many will see
Many will see and hear

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song.

I will sing to the LORD, for He has dealt with me richly; I will praise the Name of the LORD Most High.