Tomorrow I will close the shutters for the last time. In a kitchen where my grandma used to can vegetables and cook for the families of her four daughters that she loved. I will empty the room where I laid many nights snuggled between the two of them, begging my grandpa for one more scary story that he liked to tell while listening to cars passing on the main road driving to destinations unknown. I will look into the same mirror where my four- year -old self- attempted to brush my hair, while grandpa caught a picture in that bathroom with the dated butterfly wallpaper. But this time, I will steal a glance of myself for the last time.
The last glance in a house with walls that hold decades of stories, as all homes do.
I thought by now I would be ready. The house sat on the market for a dragged out year that felt like ten. Close to selling several times, only to fall through. A roller coaster of hope and disappointment. Of moving forward just to step back. A weary mix of unknowns and confusion about the direction we were heading that left us stunned and scratching our heads in perplexity. But as I sat there around the table to close on the house, my heart did not show up for the anticipated day the I thought it would. I felt weepy and strangely torn. Like I could stop time and protect the treasures of my heart if I didn’t sign on that line. The weather outside seemed to agree, with its gray skies and fits of scattered and cold rain.
We spend most of our lives in two waiting rooms. The waiting room of waiting. Feeling ready to move forward, but circumstances aren’t lining up just yet. So we wait, often impatiently and marked with grumbling and blaming God for holding out on us.
For the right spouse to marry.
For the labor to start.
For the test results to come back.
For the house to sell.
For the phone to ring.
For God to move in situations, we can do nothing about. Except for wait.
But we often spend an equal amount of time in the waiting room of lingering. Of holding onto seasons, we are meant to move on from. Like there is an unopened invitation laying on the table inviting us into our future. But we walk by it, convinced that what we’ve already experienced and have known is better than anything that could be ahead. Our curiosity dominated by complicated emotions.
Our hearts are not always good at the letting go part.
And sometimes the waiting that we feel sentenced to in that silent waiting room is because of our lingering. Because of what needs to change in us.
In the book of Exodus, there is a well- known story of an Israelite community that found freedom from years of slavery in Egypt. Oppressive slavery of working their fingers to the bone for rulers in palaces, while their own families suffered in living conditions not fit for anyone.
I can tell you a thing or two about final release dates from places you don’t want to be. About being under someone else’s authority and rule. About oppression and being robbed of dignity and humanity. So I can easily imagine the joy and freedom they felt at their release from Egypt. That place marked with tears and suffering. Freedom longed for and finally realized. So now they enter into the happy future they wanted and waited for, right? Wrong. They ended up wandering like nomads on a forty year journey to the place God had promised them was ahead.
Delivered from their waiting room, only to enter the lingering room. Because the waiting isn’t just about what is being prepared for us. It’s about what is being prepared in us.
Sometimes you will find yourself on the other side of difficult circumstances only to find that they are still very much inside of you. And you aren’t near as ready for what is ahead as you think you are.
Since this whole waiting deal is a guarantee for all of us, the question begs to be asked:
How do we learn to wait well?
There is a verse in Ecclesiastes 3 that echoes in my mind:
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”
There is a time. God is not linear in time the way that we understand time. It makes my head hurt to think about it honestly. A reflection of my own limited comprehension.
We wait well by focusing our energy on becoming the person we want to be when we get to our longed-for place, and by surrendering the demand to know when we will arrive.
By focusing on becoming the spouse that we long for.
On being the parent our children deserve.
On becoming the person who learns to trust, even in the face of bad news.
On becoming the person who learns to walk in peace during prolonged waiting.
On being the person who learns that when the phone doesn’t ring, one day you may be grateful it didn’t.
On becoming the person who knows that God is sovereign (unrestricted, boundless, unlimited) and you and I? Newsflash: We are not.
There is a time. It may be today. It may be tomorrow. It may be a year from now or longer. Let's not hinder ourselves on our journey by not waiting well. Let's not hinder ourselves by holding too tightly to what we’ve left behind.
Look ahead and not over your shoulder. Open that invitation. Have enough faith to believe that what lies ahead is just as good or better than what’s left behind.