Sunday, October 15, 2017

Lessons From the Wilderness: Trust the Wait

"Trust the wait.
Embrace the uncertainty.
Enjoy the beauty of becoming. 
When nothing is certain, anything is possible."

Over the last few weeks I've been reading an amazing book called, "Wait and See: Finding Peace in God's Pauses and Plans" by Wendy Pope. 

I stumbled upon this book when it showed up in my "Recommendations for You" section on Amazon, and I bought it solely based on the title. 

As many of you know, I am currently in a very long, very dry season of waiting. 

I'm still not 100% certain what brought me here, but I do know WHY I am here. 

I am here because there are things He needs to teach me in the wilderness. 

Things that I will need for the journey that is to come. 

I know my calling.

I know my purpose. 

But, I also know that His timing is everything. 

This book has totally transformed my mind set regarding my current waiting season. It has taught me to lean in harder towards God instead of pushing Him away. 

It has reminded me of all of the people who came before me who also walked through very hard, very real seasons of waiting. 
  • Noah WAITED. Scholars guesstimate that it took Noah almost 75 years to build the ark. (Genesis 6)
  • Abraham WAITED for the child he was promised. (Genesis 18)
  • Joseph WAITED. He spent years in captivity before the Lord final rose him up to second in command over all of Egypt. (Genesis 37-41)
  • Joshua WAITED in the desert with the Israelites for the Promise Land. (Joshua 1-5)
  • Hannah WAITED and prayed longingly for a child. (1 Samuel 1)
  • Samuel WAITED for God to show him the first King of Israel. (1 Samuel 9)
  • Ruth WAITED at the instruction of her mother in law at the feet of Boaz. (Ruth 3)
  • Esther WAITED for the Lord’s timing to approach the King to save her people. (Esther 5)
  • David WAITED for years to become the chosen King of Israel. (2 Samuel)
  • John the Baptist WAITED and prepared the way for Jesus public ministry (Matthew 3)
  • Jesus WAITED 40 years to start his public ministry.
  • Paul had MANY seasons of WAITING…some of them spent in prison. (Acts 16)
I have spent so much time studying these Biblical heroes and their seasons of waiting. I draw strength and encouragement from them, as well as, strength and encouragement from people I know in my everyday life who have walked through seasons of waiting: my pastors who held church in their living room for years waiting for God to grow their ministry; my aunt who recently walked through a successful chemo journey but spent months waiting for God to heal her; an amazing mili-spouse and bloggy friend who just spent a year waiting for her beloved to return from Kuwait; and so many more.

It's a relief to know that seasons of waiting are not unique. They are a critical tool that God uses to show and guide us toward the plan He has for us.

Today, I wanted to share with you some of the things God has been teaching me in my season of waiting. Some of these lessons have been painful and others have been a relief, but regardless, I know each one is taking me in the direction of where He is leading me.


1. Waiting HEALS us. 

One of my favorite quotes in Wendy's book is this, "God has to do a work in us before He can do a work through us."

When my season started, I believed it was due to the untimely, sudden death of my mother-in-law. I believed it was God's way of making us-especially me-slow down and reassess what was truly important in life.

In many ways, I still believe that was part of it, but as I trudge faithfully along (see also: being dragged while kicking and screaming), I am finding out that this season of waiting had a much deeper meaning.

Over the past few months, I have found my mind wandering back to a much darker time in my life.

Ashley circa. 2013.

For YEARS I have squeaked by without really thinking about that time in my life.

Sure I talk about it...often.

I use it as a reference point. A tool to help those just like me.

But, I haven't really THOUGHT about it a.k.a. DEALT with it.

I like to tuck that year deep within my heart, and pretend like I am fine.

Just fine. 

I like to masquerade around like I am stronger because of it, and completely healed from it.

But, the truth is: I'm not. 

I think in the beginning, I wanted to put on a brave face SO badly that instead of working through all the processes of grief, hurt, and betrayal, I rushed headlong into my new normal.

Shortly after everything happened, I began to minimize my pain, because people were begging me to just "stop talking about it".

And so I did-at least in the context of how it applied to me and my very broken life.

I washed my face, put on my makeup, and faced the next four years in a way many people would describe as "brave" or "empowering".

I have used my story to help many, many people.

But, the truth is: we can't hide from God.

He sees even the most broken places within us.

The ugly, dark places that we keep hidden or that only come out on Wednesday night after everyone in your house has gone to bed and your 3 glasses of wine deep.

It took me a while, but eventually I realized that God wanted me to walk through this season of waiting, because He knew I still had a lot of healing to do.

He knew that there was no way I could truly help or understand others if there were things I had not totally worked through in my own heart.

The last few weeks have been especially painful, but I am finding that I am starting to say things out loud to myself that I never truly acknowledged or was in denial about 4 years ago.

God is digging the darkness up and out.

Much like a dentist extracting a painful tooth, He knows that it's going to hurt, but in the end I will feel so much better because we have walked through this together.

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." (James 1:2-4 NLT)

It may require relieving painful memories, acknowledging lies that we told ourselves to make ourselves feel better, and/or reaching out to those that we have wronged and who have wronged us, but in the end we emerge totally renewed, fully developed, perfect, complete, and ready to take on what He has in store for us.


2. Waiting PREPARES us.

David didn't storm the castle and force Saul to give him his crown. Noah didn't order his big boat from Amazon. Esther didn't throw a tantrum to make the King give in to her way. John the Baptist didn't get jealous and choose to focus on his own agenda. Paul didn't give up because he was sitting on the floor of a jail cell.

Instead, all of these people used their season of waiting to press harder into God.

I often describe my season of waiting as a "leaning in".

I visualize myself sitting on God's lap and leaning back, hard against His chest. I can hear his heartbeat, and feel His breath keeping rhythm with mine. I quiet my mind and my heart, and wait expectantly for Him to reveal the next step.

While He hasn't opened the next door quite yet, I know that what He really wants from me in this season is to draw closer to Him.

"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (Romans 8:28 NLT)

There are definitely days when I don't see or understand how God is using this season for "my good". 

There are days when my very type-A, plan-loving personality wants to rush ahead and make all of this "hurry up already"! 

I have seen the vision. I know where all of this is going, so why can't it just be now? 

And it's in those moments when I feel myself trying to take back control that He reminds me that nothing good ever comes from doing things of my own accord. 

His timing is perfect. His plan is perfect. His ways are perfect. 

Even on the days when it doesn't feel like it. 

So, instead of focusing on how I can get somewhere faster, I need to focus on what He's trying to teach me in this place and how He is going to use this season ultimately for His glory. 


3. Waiting SHIFTS our perspective

It's so easy in seasons of waiting to become sickeningly self-focused. 

Our selfish, human nature loves a pity party and "Why Me?" becomes the #1 hit that me, myself, and I find ourselves jamming out to on the dance floor. 

My little family can attest to the ways that I have allowed my season of waiting to steal my joy and turn my focus inward instead of outward.

Recently, God decided to shine a harsh, blaring light on this reality for me.

He wanted me to understand that while I'm so focused on the what's to come-my very real here and now is suffering from my selfishness.

It's no secret that I am a blessed girl.

I have this amazing boy who loves me in a way I do not deserve.

A little girl who swears I hung the moon.

A cute little house, a nice car (despite the self-inflicted dent), and a job that pays well.

My bills get paid every month, my family always has more than enough food to eat, clothes to wear, and way too many things to entertain them, and I always have a box of wine in my fridge.

I have so many things to be thankful for-so many things that fill my life with joy and purpose.

But, sometimes I get so focused on the blinking cursor at end of paragraph. 

I am waiting impatiently for what is to come instead of re-reading the paragraph I just typed.

Yes, God has BIG plans, but He doesn't want us to forget the things He's called us to in the meantime.

Our families. Our boring desk jobs. Our monthly children's church commitment. Our small groups.

"What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure." (Phil. 2:12-13 MSG)

The things I mentioned before may seem small compared to arenas filled with people and entire bookshelves full of our next best seller, but the truth is that they are just as-if not more-important.


I wish I could end this post by saying that my season of waiting is over, and I have a meeting with a publisher next week, but the truth is my season of waiting is far from over. 

I still have a lot of healing to do and more mornings to spend in the lap of my Savior. 

But, I know without a shadow of a doubt what is to come-I'm just waiting on Him to show me the next step, the next door, the next chapter. 

If you are in a season of waiting, let me just encourage you in this: God is not far from you. He is right there with you. 

He sees. He knows. He is listening. 

You didn't misunderstand Him and He always keeps His promises. 

It may not come the way you think it should or in the way you had planned, but I know that His ways are always SO much better.

So, hold on, brave heart. 

It's coming. 

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