Opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author.
His story began with waiting. For 2-1/2 months of preterm labor and bedrest, we awaited his arrival. Sure enough, there he came, safe, healthy, whole. We kept feeding him, he grew up, and he set his sights on a college. One, two, then three tries with months of waiting and uncertainty in between. At last, that lovely packet came. “Congratulations! You’re in.”
He applied himself to his studies heart and soul, for the vision was ever before him. Then this past spring, he graduated. Immediately, he began pursuing a specific job. He was rarin’ to go, eager to use that new diploma. On this door and that he knocked with no success.
Meanwhile, things at our house had shifted. Suddenly, I was called back into my husband’s office full time. Business was exploding, and we found ourselves consumed with affairs at work. All of this, with a major renovation project underway at home.
Quietly and without fanfare, the graduate went to work. For months, he worked outside, completing a barn remodel, redoing landscaping, gardening, mowing every acre, and running the house. Never once did a word of complaint or impatience fall from his lips. As it came to him, he would knock on one more door, send one more resume, make one more phone call. Then, dreaming and knocking, he kept on doing the next thing.
On a recent happy day, the right door opened at last. After months of loving care and faithful service to our family, he flew from the nest into the rising sun. His waiting and patience had borne their fruit.
His brothers have, too, known the pain of waiting. When one of them flew over the bounding sea to pursue a dream of his own, we rejoiced and blessed his journey. He was just starting to roll when covid hit. All at once, he found himself unable to work, trapped in a tiny room with mice that ate his food, a dog nearby that barked incessantly, and a microscopic balcony on which he could breathe city air.
In recounting it later, he said, “I decided that I would look at it as though I was a soldier.” It gave him a spirit of adventure, and he embraced the opportunity to learn how to endure hardship just as a soldier would do, and endure he did. In the solitude, his spiritual life deepened, and his faith grew, as did his character. It was a more mature young man who returned to us at last.
Now another son finds himself in a holding pattern. With no clear path ahead, he is doing what his siblings and, yes, his parents have done. He arises every day, and he does the next thing. Whatever lies before him to do, he does it. And when he chafes at the delay, I say to him what I’ve said to them all.
“Moses in the desert. Forty years. Herding sheep.”
For 40 hot, dry years, this son of Israel tended a flock. With no clear path ahead, he did what he knew to do, and he kept on doing it. Then one ordinary day, a burning bush, a booming Voice, and a heavenly directive. He was to lead God’s people out.
In my life, I have found that my greatest personal growth has taken place in seasons of waiting. Recently, I ran across a golden nugget in the weightlifting world that describes it. Time Under Tension (TUT) is the amount of time a muscle or muscle group is activated during a set. Increasing the time under tension can promote muscle growth.
What is true for the body is true for the soul. As a five-minute program with three-pound weights will not give you the strength or physique of a heavy lifter, a life of ease will never develop a strong character. It is prolonged uncertainty, hardship, and pain that do the deep work in the heart, bringing profound and lasting change. As always, though, it will be our choice.
When hard times come and we find ourselves back in the waiting room, we must choose our posture there. We can clench our fists and fight, expending all our energy on things we cannot control. We can go the way of numb resignation, refusing to be present in our own stories. (It must be noted that the things that numb pain, numb all that feels good, too, and we are numb, then, to hope, to joy, to love.)
Thankfully, we can make a different choice, choosing instead to lean forward with expectation, yet believing in hope, in redemption, in love. No matter what our eyes can see today, we can choose faith over despair and the grand hope that lasting good shall yet come.
For the one who’s worn from the weight of the wait, you can do what my own sons are learning to do–simply arise and do the next thing. In the daily, diligent doing, practice your “lean,” holding open your heart to the possibility that your answer is coming and that hope still abounds.
I have prayed for you, that you shall find what I have found, that there’s strength for today for the doing, that the harvest one day will be worth it.
Every Saturday morning in the 9:30 hour, America’s small, caffeinated mom joins Bo Snerdley. There, she brings her signature wisdom, humor, and stories that encourage. Join them on 77 WABC.