I arrived to sit for hours when I had to renew my permanent visa in Brazil. At first, I was angry at the system and the time I was wasting. Then, as I sat, I began to notice details around me. I noticed things about myself, such as my shoes that had part of a heel wearing thin, my nails that needed trimming. Then I noticed the people around me and became curious about their histories and what brought us all to this time and place. We could all surrender ourselves to this process because we acknowledged our need for home and the paper work to show we belonged. We were all waiting for our lives in this place to move forward, to hear once again that, in spite of being labeled foreign, this is where we were called to be.
I've noticed a similar heart process whenever God forces me to wait. I say, "force," because I rarely choose waiting, and I usually argue with God about it. If God would only do immediately as I ask, I could keep moving, could lose little time, and produce more. But, of course, what God is looking for is the shaping of my inner life with him, which often requires long pauses. After all, the pauses and rests in music are as important as the pattern of notes to creating the overall symphony. When I am forced to stop, I begin to notice details about myself and others, and I am reminded of my true home.
A year and a half ago, Stewart and I evaluated our house situation and decided that the size of our home and what God asks of us in this home (homeschooling six children, hospitality, church meetings, etc.) were no longer suited. To put it bluntly, I thought I was going to lose my mind if I spent one more winter in the house with the basketball hoop on the front door, soccer in the halls, relatives visiting and needing to sleep all over the floors, no room for our overseas guests to stay, my own children crowded into beds and rooms, and no place for me to escape to pray and be quiet.
So we began to entertain the idea of moving. We rode the roller coaster of discouragement and hope, with God continuing to surprise us with financial provision to do the work we needed to do. During that time, we found a house that was truly a dream house in foreclosure and thought God was providing this for us. But at the end of negotiations, it went to someone else. We could not understand this turn of events.
From the beginning of our venture, I began to read the book, Waiting on God, by Andrew Murray. It is amazing that Murray had so much to say on this topic, that could come up with 30 short essays. I felt the spotlight of God on my heart. The vision for a ministry house was and is from God, I truly believe. But God has work to do in me to shape me for the vision.
Murray explains that God cannot give gifts apart from giving himself because all of his gifts are tied up in his person. "The giver is more than the gift; God is more than the blessing; and our being kept waiting on Him is the only way for our learning to find our life and joy in Himself." So when we ask for a gift, God can only give it by imparting more of himself. If I am unable to receive God himself, my heart must be put through a process of being stretched so that God can give all I am asking.
Being so limited in our scope of perspective and vision, we make requests to God that don't begin to approach what he truly wants to bestow on us. What he wants to give is so much more than we are asking for. We want immediate relief. He wants an internalized peace. We want our lives here secured. He wants our lives in him secured. So he has to stop us, withhold the immediate gift, for the sake of creating a hunger for the greater thing. It is almost like taking sugar out of the diet, and over time, the body begins to crave better food.
Murray talks about the Israelites constantly doubting that God could meet them in each new obstacle, whether it was the need for food, water, or deliverance, in spite of the fact that he had always provided. He says, "When the thought came of God doing something new, they limited Him; their expectation could not rise beyond their past experience, or their own thoughts of what was possible..." What has God wanted to do but could not because we have limited him?
This journey with God took me into deep places in my heart that included my view of house and home, my trust in God for provision, the stretching of my internal capacity to handle the pressing in of needs, and most of all an opening of my eyes in gratitude for what he has already poured out on me--true community, beloved family, a dear neighborhood of friends, a house that I do love, and a life of meaning and purpose. Such is the nature of God...to use waiting as his laboratory.
Now our house is off the market, as we were unable to sell it, and I watch the leaves fall anticipating another winter.... Someone generously gave us money to invest in our current house to make it more livable, and someone else gave us some beautiful furniture that was able to replace our very tired and overused pieces...all reminders that God does see what we need. I have also, against my nature and will, had to sort through years of accumulated books, papers, household items, to make room for staying. This has been a very needed process for me, but extremely difficult. When God visits us he naturally stirs up those moldy boxes with the breath of his passing and says, "Let's go through this and clean it out."
I don't understand why God took us on what would seem to be a purposeless trip around the block, except that I must say I know that my internal furniture is rearranged. I can truly say that I trust God more than I did when I started even though he has not given me exactly what I asked for. My connection to my eternal home is more solidified than ever, and my confidence that God has us in his heart and is always seeking to bless us is more confirmed. That outcome seems ironic. Such is the work of God. I have a more healthy detachment from the final outcome of where we live.
God continues to show us that we are to be here for now. Our neighbor just died of cancer two months after her diagnosis. She was an unchurched woman who wanted Stewart to do her funeral. Because we were across the street, we were over at their home several times a week, praying for her, getting to know her adult children, and forging kingdom connections. Her husband said to me the other day, "I am so glad you are still here."
And God continues to ask us to make room for him in our current home. Someone beloved to us showed up to live with us for a time, and God gently said, "Make room." Oh, the ironies of God's requests of us! Murray says, "Do what God asks you to do; God will do more than you can ask Him to do." A print of the Breton painting at the top of this post, "The Song of the Lark," hangs in my room. It is that constant reminder of the posture I must be in of waiting on God with my work clothes on, sickle in hand.
God is constantly reminding me, "You belong to me. Your life is not your own. Your home is not your own." I don't know the ending of this story, but I do know that God is drawing me near. My reading today from Isaiah 30 said, "By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies...the Lord is waiting to show you favor, and he rises to pity you; For the Lord is a God of justice: blessed are all who wait for him!" It is not that the physical and spiritual requests we make are not important; it is just that we must depend on God's love to meet them when our hearts are ready. And in the meantime, he shapes our hearts.
Since waiting is so central to being a Christian, perhaps I need to accept it more, instead of resisting it. I should be like those good natured Brazilians who head out in the morning knowing they will have to wait, carrying a portable table and chairs and some cards. I have seen them waiting outside in line, enjoying a great game of cards with a cold drink, while those around them fume and fuss in utter boredom.
God is waiting to give us more of himself. As we look around at all of those others waiting with us for God to answer a heart cry--for a son or daughter far from God, for healing of body or soul, for the gift of a spouse or a child, for the meeting of a financial need, for freedom from the hatred of others, for a job, for the restoration of a broken relationship, for a political miracle--may we remember that we wait primarily because we are foreigners in need of a home, and God has offered to make his home in us. As we wait today, may we open the doors and windows of our hearts to his love and presence and find that he is really the answer for which we wait. In the words of Andrew Murray, "...let us therefore cultivate the habit of waiting on God, not only for what we think we need, but for all His grace and power are ready to do for us."