Somewhere in the midst of my reeling with God, doubting his goodness and questioning his role as provider, my friend Marlena Graves offered me these words: “God did not lead you to this desert to die.” Though the words offered little comfort about our current situation (God lead us to a desert, after all. And we’d have time spend some time in that scorching, barren place), they did offer promise. And perspective. Those words opened my eyes to the wonder of what God had in store. After all, if God hadn’t led us to the desert to die. What did he lead us here for? Marlena’s simple sentence, her wise words became the backbone sentiment (if there can be such a thing) that eventually lead to my book, Broke. I’m forever grateful to her prophetic gift and mystic mind. And I’m thrilled to be able to share a bit more of her wisdom in this place.
It is another way in which my strengths and weaknesses, my insecurities and idolatries are revealed. When I wait, I discover what I truly believe about God. I discover what possesses me and how much of God’s life I possess.
There’s no doubt that waiting is one of the most difficult disciplines in the Christian life. God desires that we learn to wait well—that we trust him without panicking. “Trust we put in God honours him much, and draws down great graces,” Brother Lawrence tells us.[i] Waiting well, a grueling discipline that becomes a grace the more we practice, is not reserved for those aspiring to be in the kingdom-of-God hall of fame. It is something God desires for each one of us. It is a gift of God for the masses.
I think that it’s during the wait, more than at any other time, that Christ is being formed in us. In a sense, then, waiting is the womb of the kingdom in which we are formed. It is intimately connected with silence and solitude and even with darkness. While we wait, we cannot see ahead.
During the wait, new dimensions of the God-life are being formed in us. Most of the time, we aren’t even fully aware of what is transpiring. But while we wait and as we learn to pay attention to the details of life right in front of us, we discover that God’s grace is “always hidden under the strangest appearances,” as Jean-Pierre de Caussade says.[ii] Life all around us is full of nooks and crannies, of delights and wonders—some of which have always been there but we’ve yet to see. The season of waiting slows us down so that we notice. If we let it, it has the potential to slow us down so that we can be still and know God.
Of course, being in this womb can be terrifying because we cannot anticipate the unknown, and, naturally, we like to know what is going on. It also might be terrifying because we fear that we’ll always be waiting—waiting for a relationship to materialize or for the redemptive resolution of a situation. And it is true that there are things we will wait for throughout our lives. We will wait for the resurrection of the just, for God to make all things new. God will give us the grace we need to wait for these things. As we turn to him, the pain and angst over such a wait will lessen. Our vision and understanding will widen so that anxiety will no longer dominate our world. God uses waiting to enlarge our souls.
–Marlena Graves, A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness
[i]Andrew Murray, “Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/lawrence/practice.iii.iii.html (accessed April 14, 2013).
[ii]Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Joy of Full Surrender (Orleans, MA: Paraclete Press, 2008).