Friday, December 04, 2009
The Waiting Room
<Of David.> To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. 2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. 3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. 4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. 5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. 6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. 7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness' sake, O LORD! 8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. 10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
We've all been in a waiting room somewhere, wondering how much longer it would be, wondering when it would be our turn. Wondering how an appointment that was scheduled for a certain time doesn't actually happen until half an hour later.
We've just started the Christian season of Advent, a time marked by waiting and anticipation.
Before Jesus came, Jews waited for their Messiah to come. Today, we Christians wait for the day when Jesus will return.
And you know what? No matter what we actually say about waiting on God or trusting Him, I think that deep down, a lot of us don't really like it. We ask God what to major in so we can have a clearer direction in college. We ask God what we are supposed to do with our lives and want an answer so we can send out resumes. We want to plan everything out and make our goal lists and checkmark them when they are completed. But you know what? God doesn't always work the way that we want Him to. Surprising, isn't it?
We don't like to wait. When's the last time anyone sat down and wrote an actual letter on paper with a pen, mailed it, and then waited for a written response? Anyone? We rely on email, on text messaging, on Facebook. And don't get me wrong, I love these methods of communication. But with the immediacy of them, we get more and more used to things happening instantly. We start to get conditioned to having them happen when we want. Anyone get annoyed when an email doesn't go through right away for some reason? Or when Facebook is acting up and you can't post a comment or an update when you want? In a class, we may have to wait what we think is an inordinate amount of time for a paper to be returned, and we think it's so unfair because we had a deadline of when it had to be in, so why can't the professor return it to us promptly? We don't wait too much anymore, and when we do wait, especially during this "Christmas Season", it's in lines at the store or waiting for gifts ordered online to arrive.
I'm sure that the last thing David had in mind when he wrote this psalm was a group of people in Northern Iowa in 2009 who were one day waiting for the Messiah to come back. For David, the Messiah hadn't even come yet for the first time. This psalm is known as a lament and in it, David is asking for protection from his enemies, so that they would not be the victors.
But even though it wasn't written specifically for us, we can still learn from it. What are some of the things David does in his time of waiting?
He wants to know God's ways (v 4)
He wants to be taught by God (v 5)
He repents and wants forgiveness of his sins (v 7)
He wants sinners to be instructed (v 8)
He wants the humble to be led in what is right (v 9)
He wants an opportunity to keep God's covenant and decrees (v 10)
And in the verses we didn't read today, there is even more:
More repentance (v 11)
Friendship with God (v 14)
God's grace (v 16)
Relief from his heart's troubles (v 17)
To be brought out of his distress (v 17)
Forgiveness from sins (v 18)
To be guarded from his violent enemies (v 19-20)
For his whole nation to be redeemed from its troubles (v 22)
How many of us here have had instant understanding of something that is being taught to us? Who among us immediately recognizes when we have sinned and immediately repents? Who thinks that learning from God and obeying God is an instantaneous thing? How many of us develop deep, meaningful friendships in a short amount of time?
I don't think any of these things happen quickly, do you?
And maybe that's the point. Maybe that's why we have to wait.
In this psalm, what does David say about waiting? He asks that those who wait for God not be put to shame (v 3), he says that he waits all day long for God (v 5), and that as he waits, he wants integrity and uprightness to preserve him (v 21).
Waiting, then, is for our benefit. When we wait, we have many opportunities to grow in relationship to God and to each other.
When Jesus was here, many of his followers, Paul included, thought his return would be imminent. And, a couple of thousand years later, we're still waiting.
Even though we characterize Advent as a time of waiting, what if we looked at it slightly differently? What if we looked at it as an opportunity for growth and learning rather than just time in a waiting room? Instead of passively waiting and hoping for a future event, how can we make the most of the present time?
The answers to those questions are not going to be the same for each of us. But maybe, as we continue through Advent and look forward to Christmas, we can take a little time each day to think about how we can use this time of waiting to grow. If you aren't sure where to start, start with this Psalm. Each day, take one verse of the psalm to meditate on. One of the days you'll have to do two verses as there are 22 of them and only 21 days left until Christmas. But as you read it each day, ask yourself what you can learn from it about God, about yourself, and how it can help you grow. For example, verse one says "To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul". Think about it for a minute. What does it mean to lift up our souls to God? How can we lift up our souls to God today, right now? There. You've got the first day done. That wasn't too hard, was it?
After we leave here today I hope we can each find a way of waiting that isn't frustrating or annoying, but is beneficial to our growth and will bring us even closer to who God wants us to be.