“There’s nothing more tiring than waiting for something to happen.”
Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham
Oh how I hate it when other people are right, but in this instance everyone else was really, really right. I had never hopped on the Downton Abbey train, well, until last week. And now, after many nights in a row pressing play on “just one more” and not falling asleep until sunrise – I see what all the British fuss was about! It’s delicious and sharp and I’m loving every dramatic moment of it.
For as many fancy outfits and dry one-liners as there are, I’d suggest it’s even more full of these two things: #1 Sideways glances + pursed lips (usually followed by exiting a grand room or turning the corner in a downstairs hallway) and #2 Waiting. So much waiting. I’m only halfway through the third season and all the waiting has given me serious anxiety. Waiting for Mary and Matthew, waiting for Anna and Mr. Bates, waiting for Sybil, waiting for Edith, waiting for resolution, waiting for answers, waiting… waiting… waiting!
However, it’d be a mighty short series if no waiting was involved. There would be no plot and very little character development.
The same can be said for my Old Testament buddy Joseph.
I remember in many of my college Bible classes people would often discuss if they resonated more with Paul or Peter. Eh, I usually chose Deborah the Judge who wasn’t one of the options. (Solely because she was a woman and because I think the most hysterically sarcastic figure in scripture.) But as I’ve gotten older, Joseph’s life has proven to be a place where I return when I’m desperate, which is often, and when I’m despairing, which is less often but terrifying.
When hope has run out, along with my patience and understanding. When I have no more words to pester heaven with “why?” and “when?” and “where are You?” …that’s when Joseph saves the day.
If you aren’t familiar with the life and trials of Mr. Coat ‘o’ Many Colors, I suggest you pop over here, where our pal Brittany shared his story last spring. It’s a doozy.
The thing about waiting in the Bible, and in much of life, is that we see the waiting as the thing we have to suffer through in order to get to the good part. And many times that rings true – waiting for a baby and then a healthy pregnancy, waiting for a promotion and then voilà! an increase in pay and prominence, waiting for God to win and then the enemy is defeated.
But when we have to wait, then start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, then have to wait much longer and in much worse circumstances only to then catch a sliver of that sun again, then sink even lower and wait some more… and ’round and ’round it goes, well, it’s miserable. That was the life of Joseph. And, speaking from experience, that can be the place of big questions…
Is God punishing me?
Did I do something unredeemable?
Has He spoken, given direction, and I’ve missed it?
Why do others around me receive while I’m still waiting, still waiting, always waiting…
Though a fictional character from a PBS Masterpiece spoke it, it’s still very true – waiting is exhausting.
What’s interesting though, is the more that we examine the Bible, and our own lives – waiting is very often on purpose. It is inside of the long seasons of waiting that mysteries are being unraveled and a cosmic plane of connect-the-dots is being played. And just like the novels and movies we most enjoy – it’s the waiting that allows for suspense and the richest story-telling.
Sounds good after-the-fact, doesn’t it?
I’m often surprised and really, really annoyed when people tell their “stories” and just brush by the waiting…
“We had prayed for thirteen years, but then *this thing* happened and after that it was good and glorious and because of *that thing that happened* we went on to experience A. and B. and C. and now we’re here to share with you what to do when C. blah blah blah…”
What about the THIRTEEN YEARS of waiting?
The ache? The wondering? The almost-giving-up? The for-sure-giving-up? The pain? The promises? Waiting for a meal or an answer or a cure for thirteen hours would be torturous, thirteen days might kill us, but thirteen* years!?
(*I picked an arbitrary number, but you get the point.)
The waiting is the part of the story that we tend to skip over to “get to the good stuff”, but in Scripture God shares the particulars of the waiting in explicit detail.
Joseph didn’t become the right-hand man of Pharaoh overnight, and God doesn’t lead us to believe He did. God made sure that in His word we see the hurt and betrayal, the unfair imprisonment, the broken promises, and the redemption. The story of waiting not just once, but over and over.
Because the waiting wasn’t just “part of” the plan – the waiting WAS the plan! Each step of “the waiting” was directing Joseph’s steps towards God’s redemptive end.
And I can type that to you in all sincerity and still hate the waiting here on West Hampton Drive…
I left my beloved church of almost a decade, and leading my house church of four years, out of sheer obedience one year ago and God has still yet to be clear on where He holds community for me. Still waiting.
I had deep deep hopes of teaching and speaking and publishing when I started writing regularly in the fall of 2008. Still waiting.
I knew adoption would be a part of my life for nineteen years now, and still no babe in my arms. Still waiting.
Secret letters were written to “My Future Husband” starting at the age of eleven, and twenty-three years and three significant heartbreaks later, still waiting.
Maybe someday I’ll “see” what all this waiting is for BUT, and this is a big one – am I (are you? are we?) content to still wait if we will NEVER get the thing(s) we long for or feel promised for our entire earthly lives?
Will the waiting be what unravels our faith and our strength? Or will our faith, like the roots of a tree – grow deeper and stronger unseen underground in this terribly long unyielding winter while waiting for spring?
“Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters… so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that He have mercy upon us.” Psalm 123:2
Joseph had no guarantee of redemption with his family on this side of heaven, no promise of a prison break, no bankable contract to work as the most revered in all of Egypt… but he waited with grace. Because he trusted a God that works most often in the unseen, and most assuredly in the waiting.