Waiting on the Lord

Backstory

Two years ago, when I wrote this, I found myself in a very fearful waiting place. I was without a job, without any prospects, and with the knowledge that my money would soon run out while in California. It was nearing a time when I would need to pack my bags and head back to the East Coast to begin again. This was the very last thing I had wanted to do that that time.

Waiting on the Lord

Waiting on the Lord? I suck at it.

Yes, for all the times I’ve sat with families and patients waiting for a test result, a surgical outcome, pain medicine, a trauma doctor to come and give some news—for all the times I’ve prayed for God to make me a peaceful presence, a non-anxious presence, when my life is on the line, more often than not, I crack.

And that’s okay.

My goal here is not to chastise myself over ‘cracking’ or my impatience or my misguided thinking that I can tackle the problems of the world (or at least my little world) alone.

I’m here to wrestle with this—it’s usually in this wrestling, this struggle (la lucha) that God most clearly speaks to me, and hopefully to anyone else who needs to hear what He has to say.

I’ve wanted to write this, to struggle with this waiting on the Lord since Monday night, as I drove home from my friend’s house.

The anxiety that I had fought so hard to keep at bay crept up and took me by surprise. Two weeks and I may be packed up and heading back East! The thought gripped me by the throat and squeezed, hard! Now, to those in the Northeast, I’m also not writing this to do a whole East vs. West comparison or to say one sucks and that the other is perfect. This is not what this is about.

So this thought is choking the life out of me and I’m way past panic mode when—finally!—I remember. My life, my future, my everything is in God’s hands. One would think that this new thought would tear me from the hands of despair and bring me some relief. Not quite so. Not yet, at least. I think my dialogue with the Almighty went something like, “Oh my God, no. Really?” “Really, I’ve got this. It’s all okay.” Except it wasn’t. I knew it wasn’t okay. I was and have been scared shitless, sleepless and at times grumpy at others. Sorry Mom, Dad, and [insert your name].

It was anything but okay.

Still, in my own infinite wisdom (laugh here, please), I pushed on. “I can do this. No worries. It’s all under control,” which of course it wasn’t, and I was slowly driving myself insane. Everything is in God’s infinitely capable hands.

‘But I’m scared,’ I heard myself whisper.

Of course, I’m scared. It’s scary. Uncertainty and a looming unknown are both scary potentials. Words to many songs came into my heart. Knowing that giving voice to these, and to the prayer that was in the song, would make me emotional, I found myself resistant at first and I also knew that surrendering my heart, my soul, my hopes, and my fears to God was the very best thing for me. I also remembered that “throughout the day we may need to surrender our will repeatedly. This can be especially true while struggling to let go of expectations” (Opening Our Hearts, Transforming Our Losses, 46). And what was I in need of doing but letting go of expectations and outcomes in regards to my job search and my drive to stay in California?

I sang, I prayed. I pranged. I did it honestly, openly, and vulnerably. And yes, there were tears. First came the worship song, “The Everlasting God”:

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord…

—But I don’t want to!

We will wait upon the Lord…

— But I don’t have time to!

And again, until all my fearful resistances were silenced. Until I pranged it right through:

Our God, You reign forever
Our hope, our strong deliverer
You are the everlasting God
the everlasting God
You do not faint
You won’t grow weary

The words came and suddenly my history of waiting, my history of being delivered, was before me. Call it a documentary of God’s salvific work in my life running through my head, my heart, and my soul. A strong witness that God—the one holding my life, my everything in his hands—is indeed the defender of the weak, the comforter of those in need and the one who will lift me, and all of us, on wings like eagles’.

I felt my heart change. I felt secure; surrounded by the love of God and as I was changed, so changed my song:

I have decided,
I have resolved,
to wait upon You Lord.

It is the only thing I can do. It is the only thing I can ever do, and when the waiting is difficult, when it feels impossible, I can ask God to help me. The song/prayer (sayer?) goes on:

My rock and redeemer,
shield and reward,
I’ll wait upon You Lord.

I will wait with the help of God, my rock. I cannot do it alone. I cannot do anything alone. It’s foolishness for me to think that I can, and yet I know I will think so again and again (and again). And again I will need to ask God for help; I’ll ask for God to dim the lights and roll the film, allowing that glorious documentary to play on a larger-than-life screen. Except this time a clip of me in my car, wrestling as I turned onto the southbound Interstate 15; tearful, fearful and resistant, will have been added, as will the song of my heart rising high to the heavens and the everlasting God’s graceful, merciful response.

As surely as the sun will rise
You’ll come to us.
Certain as the dawn appears,
You’ll come.
May it be so.

Epilogue

Oddly enough, I got home that night, checked some random job postings and stumbled across something I had never seen before. I applied the next day and am going to be arranging for an interview on Monday. Thanks to all those who have kept me in prayer! And now, two years later I remain in California, have that job that I found that night, remain relatively impatient and still struggling to wait on the Lord, but I have another memory of God’s hand in my life to turn to when the waiting begins to be too much.

God came then in this reflection, that very night even!

God is coming to us in this holy season.

God will continue to come to us in all our needs.

***

Donna Batchelor is a hospice chaplain and youth pastor in San Diego County, CA.

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December Darkness

You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.
—Psalm 18:28

I’m an impatient person
in an impatient world
except
december steals the sun
takes away the light
and leaves me in the long, quiet, dark.
Except
it isn’t always quiet.
Too quickly for even an impatient person,
the quiet tears the dark wide open,
unzips the deep and fearful places in my heart
and the already dark dark becomes darker.
The once quiet places become banshee howls
and my overwhelming lostness is revealed.
My own (at times) love of this darkness is made
manifest and all I can do is gawk at it.
I am defenseless.
I am helpless.
A lone pole on a thunderstormed beach
In Your mercy, You find me.

It is perhaps easier as the nights grow longer to sit in and experience the actual physical darkness of this season. December allows us to do this, forces us to confront literal darkness for longer and longer periods of time. What would happen if we allowed ourselves to be still (no matter how uncomfortable) and reflect upon our own places of darkness? In what areas of our life could we possibly see the need for healing, for hope, for wholeness? Where do we need God’s light to shine?

This advent, it may be time to let the long nights provide the backdrop for an intentional act of self-reflection; to look deep within, around corners that have too long remained in the peripheral and confront the dark places that cause us pain, that frighten us, that keep us from truly sharing in the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:21).

While it may feel like stumbling blindly, we are reminded that God lights our lamp. God, whose infinite love is coming to us in this season, will turn whatever darkness we uncover into light and bring hope and healing into unexpected places.

***

Donna Batchelor is a hospice chaplain and youth pastor in San Diego County, CA.