Ahhhh the art of waiting, the discipline of waiting, the gift of waiting — I am sure you have heard it put many ways and felt the intense struggles within as you wait for something.
Yup – you heard me right I said wait for the shower! And no I did not mean showers of blessing though it may turn into exactly that when you wait. I was talking about the shower – the one you have in the morning under water, you know, to make you smell like roses, ya that shower. Surely most of us have had to wait for our turn in the shower. Rarely do we live in houses with enough showers for every person or where you can all use the hot water at once. Okay that is not exactly the kind of waiting I had to endure when it comes to showers in this story.
We were living in a campground our first 6 months on the road, 4 of us in a small trailer on a donated camp site. The adventure of our lives – the great outdoors, the great unknown, living by faith. It couldn’t get any better! Well, except for in the mornings. You see our hot water tank did not work and that meant using the camp showers. Not so bad if you were on the nicer side of the campground but we were on the transient end with the older showers. In the summer I found out I could get into the nicely remodelled wheelchair shower if I went early enough and no one would even notice, but when the fall came and the camp ground began shutting down they locked up the nice showers! Maybe this is not such a big deal for some of you – roughing it, dirty, cold showers – but it was something I had only done on occasion for short camping trips, not as a life style. When you are heading into your 4th and 5th months in a campground and you have been taking cold showers with disgusting insects daily it starts to wear on you. By the time October rolled around it was getting very cold in the mornings, there was very little staff left and the showers were no longer being daily maintained. We were still desperately seeking a place to live for the end of the month when the camp ground would close and every morning the shower got worse. It got colder and colder, the mornings were dark for the long walk in the cold down to the showers, the building had no heat and the water at best was luke warm. For some reason the insects, worms, spiders and giant flying bugs took refuge in those showers and no matter how many times I tormented them and chased them away they always came back for the next morning! By the middle of the month I often walked back to the trailer in tears, shivering and Eric would warn the kids to be good and quiet when Mommy got back because it was her shower morning. Don’t get me wrong – we were very blessed to have a place to stay and thankful for the gift of the campground – I was also learning to be thankful for every thing, even cold showers. God is not finished with me yet – thankfully.
We prayed earnestly – as much for a clean shower as for a home to live in when the park closed and then we waited. I did not wait well at this time as each morning was so hard. I waited with frustration, through fatigue and wondering, is this really worth it? Sad I know – here I am in Canada with a million blessings around me, not in a third world country or living in a hut but I had not learned to wait yet, I had to learn the blessings of waiting which was yet to come so bear with me here. God often does things in the least expected ways!
One of those cold shower mornings I prayed every step of the way back to the trailer. We got ready and headed into town to the church we were helping at the time. On our way into town we saw a pickup truck stalled in the middle of the road with a lady alone in the truck. We pulled off to offer our help just as she was getting out into the pouring rain to go look for something in the back. Eric got out and found out she was out of gas. The children and I watched as they got out a gas can and then went back to the cab of the truck to get something – only to find the doors locked and keys inside! We phoned for help, dug out the extra coats from our “closet” in the back of our truck and I stayed and waited with this woman while Eric went on to take the kids to the church. Of course as it goes with women we passed our time in the cold rain by talking, during which she asked how we liked it at the campground. I went on to tell her all the blessings of our life there and then said “well except for the showers”, naturally she asked about them and I elaborated. After a time the tow truck showed up, unlocked the truck, gave her some fuel and on we all went on with our day.
So you say – big deal, where is the point – I told you this is about waiting! Here it is…later that night, sitting in our trailer, the cell phone rang. It was the woman we had helped that morning, calling to thank us for our help and for inspiring her as she was raised in a Christian foster home which she still considered her family but she had not been serving the Lord in a while. She was deeply touched by our sacrifices in order to care for the church and that we would endure these awful showers so that we could serve the Lord. This tugged at her heart and she began to consider going back to church. What a blessing – but wait it gets more interesting – she wanted to thank us so she called her foster-brother up (he runs Circle Square Ranch), and told him our story. He in turn offered for us to go have showers at their “hotel like” rooms any morning we wanted to!
Doubly blessed – as we waited God had a plan for our turmoil and time of waiting – our eyes might have been on the shower and our needs but His eyes were on a lost soul, a deeper blessing and a deeper lesson on the hidden treasures in waiting.
We are being blessed with a time of waiting right now as we wait to see if God will provide for the ministry center or if He has another plan.
Sometimes you are waiting with dread, other times with anticipation or torn between the too. What do you do when you feel God has led you to a place or in a certain direction but now it is time to wait for His plan to happen?
As church leaders and pastors how we have all experienced this in our ministries and our churches, times when you feel you are following God’s will and plan but then you are stuck waiting – the results aren’t immediate and you find yourself wondering “Did I hear God right?”, “Ok God – I did my part, where are you?”
You know the old saying “Good things come to those who wait”, usually it is said with the eyes on the prize, the thing you are striving for but all too often our eyes are focused on the wrong prize.
Throughout this journey we have been on, a journey of living a life of service, without income as missionaries – but without a set amount raised we have had our eyes on many prizes. Often we needed housing, food or clothing. Perhaps a car was needed, new glasses, books for the kids or something as simple as a clean shower. We would pray and ask God to meet these needs and then we would wait, eagerly, fearfully, faithfully – our emotions ran the gammit. I remember the first time on the road that God gave us something we had been praying for. We woke up in our trailer, which was a miracle in its self, and looked out the window to see several grocery bags on the picnic table. It was like Christmas morning – truly, they were filled with food and gifts. I wept with relief and I wept with joy. Surely God would continue to provide if we remained in His will. Over and over again in the last 7 years God has cared for us with amazing blessings of clothing, food, housing in many forms, cars, dental care, the list goes on and on.
Many many times we waited desperately as the 11th hour approached and we had not housing for the next month or the cupboards were empty but as time went on and time after time in the 11th hour God provided miraculously and often through people we did not know or circumstances we could not imagine, we began to wait in anticipation with joy and while receiving rest.
Faith of course is a major fruit of waiting. It builds our faith muscle to have to wait for God to provide. Waiting for something we ourselves can not do means fully relying on God. I am very thankful for our faith muscles being built over the years, it brings peace in times of waiting and causes our eyes to stay on Jesus.
Today I want to draw your attention to another fruit of waiting – one I find much harder to learn and grasp. All too often we as leaders take something God has laid on our hearts and we run with it. I mean like a man dressed in red running from a bull kind of run. We run ahead of God rather than waiting for His direction on all the details. We often do the running for the sake of busyness – we don’t sit still well, other times we do the running because we get excited about a new vision God has given us and other times we are running because we think we have to prove and accomplish things. Then we run ourselves up against the wall – the wall of waiting – we can only do so much and then we have to wait on God for the results, or to take over, or maybe to clean up the mess we left in the wake of our running.
I know the Bible tells us to run the race, persevere, keep our eyes on the prize. But what race is it referring to? How are we to persevere and what prize are our eyes on? We are very excited about the potential ministry/retreat center to serve pastors and we eagerly are seeking funding sources – however if it has become our focus, our all then it has become our God. The race we are to run is not about making things happen, it is about doing what He calls us to do daily, it is about sticking close to God, loving and worshipping Him, being available every day for what He asks us to do each day. It is not about being too busy aiming for the future to hear what God wants you to do today. In churches it means not running towards a goal of numbers but touching the lives of the people God has already given you. Persevering means standing strong through the trials and allowing God to work in your life through them, it does not mean pushing towards a goal at all costs and going ahead of God’s timing. It often means waiting for God’s timing and being content in the waiting. A good friend said to me not too long ago while I felt like we were standing still wasting time “This did not take God by surprise – He has you right where He wants you”. Persevering does not mean waiting while frustrated, waiting for something better to come along, waiting begrudgingly. It means keeping our eyes focused on the prize through all circumstances including and especially during times of waiting. What then is the prize – not a ministry center or even a shower – our prize is Jesus. Keeping our eyes on loving Jesus, doing all the “little” things He asks, remaining in close fellowship with Him, being daily obedient in all the small things. The prize is becoming more like Christ by striving to intimately know Him. When our focus is not distracted by things we want, God does things we need.
There is much blessing in waiting, spending time in God’s presence, not just praying for Him to act but relaxing in His arms knowing He will do His will in His time and right now His will is to hold you.
It was a long post – but hopefully worth the wait! If you have stories of waiting and God’s blessings in those times please share them so that we might encourage one another!