Today is Canadian Thanksgiving, and one of the things I’m grateful for is the way God meets me in the words of others. For the first time, I’ve half-read the Advent book that I chose for this year well before we’re into Advent, and I’m still going strong.
These weeks I’ve been feeling such a longing and need for Jesus, and Bette Dickinson’s new book, Making Room in Advent, is such a beautiful welcome into his presence that I’ve plunged right in. After all, God is always coming to us, not just in Advent, and I want always to be open to his presence and his work within and around and through me. So if this is a way God wants to meet me now, why wait until the calendar tells me it’s time? God doesn’t generally seem to fit his work into my suggested timing anyway!
Companionship in the Silence
Life, for all of us, holds times when we wait and pray and live as open to God as we know how to do, and God still seems silent. The answer still doesn’t come. How, then, do we keep trusting?
I find companionship in Elizabeth and Zechariah’s story, as Luke begins to unfold it in Luke 1:5-10, and Bette in Day 2, “Making Room for a Promise.” Israel has been waiting and crying out for 400 years for God to rescue them from their oppressors. Zechariah and Elizabeth have been waiting and aching for a child.
“A barren couple and a barren nation.
Zechariah and the people of Israel have both been disappointed as they wait for God to fulfill his promise” (p. 12)
I’d forgotten, if I ever knew, that “[Zechariah’s] very name means, ‘Jehovah has remembered.’ But had God forgotten?” (p.13) How painful it must have been to carry a name meaning, “Jehovah has remembered,” and live with the daily grief and shame of being an old man, his life-long prayers for a child unanswered. How did Zechariah live with this tension? How, as a priest, did he continue to encourage those he served that God was indeed trustworthy when his own aching prayer went unanswered?
“Zechariah is not alone in feeling this way, and neither are we. Scripture is full of heroes who had to wait for God’s promises” (p. 13).
Hope in the Silence
But the reminder of what happens in the waiting offers me particular encouragement:
“What if God’s promises need to be gestated over a long time to prepare us to receive them—like a pregnancy? What if it takes not just one lifetime but generations to receive the fullness of his redemption?
Could it be that God was preparing Israel over four hundred years to make them ready for Christ?
Could it be that God was maturing Zechariah and Elizabeth until they were ready to receive John?
Could it be that God is still shaping us to receive his kingdom into our world? (p. 13)
What difference does it make if the waiting is a gestation? How might it change how we wait?
There are many promises I am still waiting on God for in my life. But when I remind myself of the necessary preparation for a promise, I shift my focus away from wondering when he will answer my prayers on to how he is preparing me to receive his answer when the time is ripe.
When I am forced to wait, I grow. My patience, perseverance, and longing for God deepen. I learn to loosen my grip on control as I recognize, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, that no amount of righteous living can bring God’s plans into fruition. He brings them in his own time and in his own way.
Like the final days of pregnancy when I was ready to get those babies out of my body, I must surrender my timeline and learn how to wait with hope. No forcing, no rushing—just making room for him as he is and as he comes.
What can we do in times of waiting, then? We can stay present, remaining open and paying attention to the subtle shifts inside. We can allow God to stretch us to make room for what he is maturing inside us and our world. And we can surrender our timeline and keep watch with expectant hope for what is to come” (p.13-14).
Bette ends her reflection offering us a prayer to carry with us, breathing our choice to trust and hope even when God seems silent.
“Inhale: Your promise will come in time.
Exhale: I can wait with hope.”
A few days on from when I drafted this post, there are glimmers of what God might be birthing in and through me. There’s hope and anticipation—and more waiting, because until we’re finally born into God’s face-to-face presence, we, along with creation, will always be waiting.
Wait in hope with me?