Today we read Pslam 77 and Isaiah 40:1-11, 28-31
If you walk through the doors of Branches in Murfreesboro you walk into the lobby. Some people would call it the waiting room. Every one of our offices has some form of waiting space. In Shelbyville it is a nice room down the hall, in Mt. Juliet it is an office next to the office, in Cornerstone it is the sitting area of the church. Several times during the day in Murfreesboro I go out into the waiting room and just sit with some of the people there and, well…wait. You can learn much about people if you visit with them while they wait. Very often they are nervous because they have not seen a counselor before. Sometimes they are sad about the things that bring them there. For the “regulars” that I have seen in the waiting room many times, there is often hope and excitement about what God is doing. Waiting rooms are wonderful learning places.
But, if you are like me, waiting is not high on your list of favorite activities. To go and sit and twiddle your thumbs until the counselor calls, or the doctor comes out, or the appointment for a family member ends, is less than ideal. The WAITING room is never my favorite. I much prefer the DOING room, or the LET’S GET BUSY room, or the TAKE ACTION AND MAKE STUFF HAPPEN room. But like it or not, waiting is a big part of life. We wait for the bride to come down the aisle. We wait for the baby to be born. We wait for our kids to start school, to finish school, to pay for school. We wait to get in places and wait to get out of them. We wait for life to catch up with us and we wait to catch our breath when life flies by. We wait to live and in many ways, we wait for the day that life as we know it will end. WAIT.
Jesus said, “Wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the Holy Spirit Even knowing that there is good stuff on the other end doesn’t make the waiting more bearable. Remember as a kid how awful the wait was those last few days before Christmas? We knew there were presents and fun things coming but the wait was almost more than we could handle. Imagine the difficulty of waiting when we are not sure the outcome on the other side of the wait. But wait we must. Waiting is an inevitable fact of life. My friend Robert says we spend much of our life in the ‘waits.’
So, if we must wait anyway, what do we do while we wait? Actually waiting is not all that bad and there is some real benefit to slowing down a little, getting off the treadmill and out of the rat race, and just waiting. The prophet Isaiah said, “They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings as eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) Then the songwriter added, “Teach me Lord. Teach me Lord to wait.”
Here are some things I am trying to learn to do while I wait. I am trying to learn to listen. It is amazing what you can hear when you just get quiet and listen. I hear the murmurs of despair from the little couple across the room from me. I hear the grumbling of dissatisfaction from the old man in the booth behind me at the restaurant. I hear the hushed giggling of the innocent children playing in the lobby of my office. And if I really listen, I hear the whispers of God reminding me that those people need Him. The waiting in Acts 1 took place in an upper room. I imagine during much of that waiting there were stories. They remembered the miracles that Jesus had done. They listened to each other share fears and disappointments. They heard about hurts, and heartaches, and hopes. Don’t you think there was a lot of listening that took place in that upper room? When I sit beside a couple in the waiting room at Branches I usually just listen. They seem to need that.
Which leads me to another thing I do while I wait. I pray. In the upper room, after Jesus said to wait, those gathered spent a lot of time praying. For ten days they listened to one another and they prayed. I was on a bus many years ago traveling from Columbus, Ohio to Nashville, Tennessee. It’s a long story how I got there but just let me say, you meet a whole new stratum of people on a Greyhound bus at 2 am. A young mother was sitting somewhere behind me and I could sense her tension as she tried to keep her infant baby from screaming through the night. Something prompted me and I began to pray for her. Immediately the baby became quiet and I assume went to sleep. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the young mother put her head back with a relieved sigh and doze off herself. True story. In about an hour we came to her stop. She got off of the bus and as she passed me, turned and smiled at me. Praying helps. I don’t imagine the families in our waiting room know it but as I walk through I very often pray for them.
Finally, while I wait I am trying to remember to talk. Now talking is not a problem for me but when I am wrapped up in my own frustrations and irritated at having to wait I usually forget about those around me. I am trying to respond to the voice of God that I hear as I wait and look for places to be an agent of His presence. I stop by the young couple and pat them on the shoulder and ask, “Can I pray for you?” I turn to the grumpy old man in the restaurant and find out how lonely he is when I ask, “How is your day?” I go to the corner of the lobby where the kids are playing and sit down in the floor with them for a few minutes and tell them a story about Jesus. Talking while I wait, especially talking on behalf of our Savior, redeems the time and maybe makes a small difference in someone else’s life. At the end of the waiting in the upper room, the Holy Spirit came. Immediately Peter went out and started talking and 3000 people came to Christ. Not a bad wait.
Waiting is a great time and a great place to talk about Jesus. I often use this acronym when talking to our counselors about talking. SALT. We are to be SALT.
- S-say anything. Just start the conversation.
- A-ask questions. The talk is not about me. It’s about them.
- L-listen. Too many times I am WAITING to get my own words of wisdom out. Just listen.
- T-turn the conversation to Jesus. That’s the point anyway. Tell them about Him.
The Psalmist said, “I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in Him.”(Psalm 40:1-3) What if His plan all along was to use you and to use me to ease the pain in others while they wait? I don’t know for sure but it just may be that this waiting room or this season of my life is exactly where God needed me to be. And it just may be that the most significant stuff in my life happens while I wait. John Lennon, that great theologian did get this part right when he sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy doing other things. So, listen to what God is saying. Pray for His direction. Speak out what He says to speak out.
The next time you are waiting, maybe even today, rather than let the frustration build and the aggravation boil, what if you took the opportunity to look around you? To see who is there waiting with you that could use a smile, a kind word, even a silent prayer? What if you listened to them and then told them about Jesus? Hey, if you get really good at it maybe you could drop by Branches…