Thursday, 11 October 2012

Waiting is always the hardest part

In what is now my 18th unfinished blog post, I am wondering if this one will actually find its way to the WWW, I guess if you’re reading this I have!

As I approach my 40th birthday, I find my life in a state of flux. My youngest is 4 years away from adult hood, my wife has refreshed her employment skills and is now looking for work, and it seems that everyone is looking to transition to a new phase in their life.

As for me, I seem a little stuck. – not the stuck that most ‘nearly 40 something's’ feel as they approach the mid-life crisis years, – I think I did that a couple of years ago! – but the distinct feeling I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in a back alley.   I won’t bore you with the details of those things, because actually that’s not the reason for writing.. Instead I’ve been pondering the question of why it is that I find waiting so difficult…

Here’s how it works for me.

  • I send an email, I expect a response in a reasonable period of time. Reasonable is a fluid period, but I suspect a response should be received within a couple of days.
  • If I send a text message, I expect a response within the same day – After all, all sorts of things could have happened that might prevent the intended recipient to reply, such as not having their phone with them that day, or being in a place with no reception or has the phone switched off, but one would imagine that at some point during that day, the recipient would find time to reply.
  • If I send an instant message to a person who is online, I expect a response rather quickly.. – I mean barring leaving IM on (which does happen a lot, actually) if I’m engaging in a conversation I expect a response no longer than a pee break.
  • If I’m in a conversation with a person, face to face, I expect a response pretty much immediately. (again pee breaks accepted)

Perhaps your expectation isn’t too far away from this in respect of communications using various media. Such is my personality, that the longer the gap after the expected response period, the more paranoid I become that I’ve said something which was received poorly and my emotional hamster starts running wildly trying to work out what I could have said better, and whether my relationship with the recipient is damaged etc. It drives me nuts. Most often, something quite rational happened and they carry on oblivious to my angst, and the delay was nothing to do with me at all.

Now it’s not just in conversations that my emotional hamster gets all worked up.  If I’ve promoted an idea, asked someone for a decision on something, made an alteration to something then my anxiousness is the same. What will they think? Will they agree?  And if the result of their musing will mean a change for me, then my uncomfortability rises exponentially, because I really hate living in the end of a season space, where something is finishing and something else is starting..  Innovation always energises me, and having to finish something or having to wait to begin something is like just winding and winding an elastic band on a balsa wood plane propeller (actually much more like twisting a sachet of sauce in  Wetherspoon’s before it explodes).

And so it is with God too.. I generally don’t find God silent. Most of the time it seems easy to determine his will by reading, praying, thinking, strategizing and just making a decision to act and seeing how the spirit feels about that! – God loves a good decision maker and unless he has other ideas (which he seems to make known pretty quickly) He seems pretty intent on my life heading towards His destination by choosing whatever path seems right to me at the time. [ For instance, you want to live in a different place? Put your house on the market! If it sells and you find a place to move to you like, then it would seem good to you and the spirit, so move.  If you put your house on the market, and it doesn’t sell, then that seems a pretty good indication that this might not be the right time to be moving.. and therefore get on with your life.]

But there are other things that are not so easy to wait for.. life changing events, that make ‘getting on with your life’ quite difficult…  That period between putting your house on the market and waiting a period of time to see if it sells, for instance is a horrible place to be. [and how sweet the relief once the house sells or a decision made to come off the market] Or maybe it’s a change of job role, and you’re finishing off your old responsibilities and trying to get up to speed on new ones. Man that can be a difficult place. Pregnancy too, is a big one isn’t it.. the pensive state between not yet being with a new life, and yet, there it is, trapped in a woman’s belly!

But the biggest for me, is in breakthrough.  When God is seemly quite and weak. Where it seems that a decision is obvious but the timing isn’t right, or when it seems that you don’t know where to go or what to do. When you’re struggling through something and waiting for the end. When you’re struggling to get to somewhere and you’re helpless to bring about the change you need. When you simply don’t know what to choose between two seemingly attractive or catastrophic outcomes, and you’re just not sure which one to choose because it HAS to be A or B not both A and B. (like should we move to Australia say, and stay in England.. you can’t physically do both)  These are the most difficult places to be.. and perhaps where our emotional hamsters do the most roiling.  The what if’s come crashing like waves.. it’s difficult to plan, after all you don’t know what’s coming next, and there’s no comfort whatsoever in the  ‘take each day as it comes’ mantra that you whisper to your tortured soul.  It’s an intensely restless period, where peace and joy seems far from your lips and life, even the simple things (like managing freezer food) becomes a nightmare, life becomes painful, itchy and fragmented, relationships become tense or stupendously intimate as you both hold on and let go at the same time, and family tensions boil over into arguments, eggshell treading and lots of tears.

I hate these periods, and I’m thankful they don’t come often. Most of our life actually is quite controllable, and we can enjoy the benefits of planning and executing those plans, and dealing with any variations or course corrections as we go.  Minor alterations from a trajectory are easy to manage because you have momentum, and pretty much everyone is on the bus with you.

  • So where you have seemingly difficult choices, but where they are in your power to make changes let me urge you.. just make a decision.  You’ll feel better once you have made a choice. It may be the right one, it may be the wrong one. – Maybe you just won’t know, but the paralysis of not making a choice, sitting on the fence forever or worse, trying to straddle both positions as they diverge will bring endless [avoidable] pain to your life.  Just decide and move on.  If God is seemingly quiet on the issue, perhaps he doesn’t actually mind which one you choose?  And won’t he bring ALL THINGS together for the good of those who love him? Romans 8 v 28
  • Get on with your life. How often have you heard someone pray or prophesy using Jeremiah 29 v 11?  I wonder why they do that…  I think it’s a very unhelpful verse in the way it’s often applied, because it PREVENTS a person from making a decision, and REQUIRES someone else to tell them prophetically what to do. But the context in Jeremiah 29 isn’t wait on God till he tells you what to do AT ALL… in fact quite the opposite, take a look yourself… note the verses 4-9 a clear instruction to settle down, raise rugrats, eat and pray for your city to prosper.  then the kicker… v 10 WHEN you’ve been doing that for 70 years, THEN I’ll come to you and fulfill my promise BECAUSE [v11] I have plans to prosper you …  So God has a plan to prosper you, but work it out as you live your life.. don’t be paralysed waiting for God to speak, just decide what you want to do..  he’ll make it pretty clear if you’re stepping off plan.

And so with some certainty I feel I must pronounce that indecision is simply procrastination. It is a fear that we will choose wrong, which puts us in the same back alley that making a poor decision would put us in.. So you see, whether you make a bad decision, or no decision, this negative outcome is waiting for you…. The only way to attempt to avoid it is to actually make a decision… 

But if like me, you’ve made a couple of decisions and you’re now in the back alley you feared, there are still two choices!

  1. live in the back alley, give up and wait for death, or
  2. turn around and do something different. 

It is exceedingly rare that God will open up a secret compartment at the end of the alleyway, taking you into an as yet undiscovered life, of extraordinary wonder and fulfilment, instead we have to take responsibility for any poor decision we made that brought us here, stop blaming others (or God) for ‘leading us here’ and TURN AROUND and get out of the hole we’re in.   

The reason friends, that waiting is so unbearably difficult, is that we’re on a journey [aren’t we?] and waiting isn’t much part of getting to your destination. If we’re waiting we’re wasting time.  Waiting should be an active temporary thing (like going to a bus stop, waiting for the bus to arrive) not a passive thing (waiting at home hoping a bus would stop outside your house). Passive is procrastination again.  So if you’re not seeing breakthrough with something, chances are you haven’t made the decision (or followed through with the consequences of that decision (which is the same thing as not having made the decision at all)). 

So where does that leave me?  For the things I can decide, things that are within my power to change, things that ultimate affect my journey/trajectory or ultimately my destination, I can make [and follow through] a decision or two and end my discomfort. I may make the wrong decision, but a decision at least will have been made and I’ll have to rely on God (at the end of my three core years and ten) to bring about those plans and purposes he has for me to come good. For the things I’m waiting for others to decide, hopefully they’ll not drag out the difficulty for too long, noting that it is destabilising for them also to have these things hanging about undecided.   I’m not sure what a reasonable period of time is to wait for that… but I can’t imagine being in the dead zone for more than a month will produce a happy bunny, so I guess that’s the yardstick by which I’ll get very twitchy.. Finally, I can be hopeful that whatever I decided and whatever is decided for me, there is a future hope that all things will work together for good, so I needn’t worry about how many wrong decisions I make, or how blunderous my steps, I just need to worry about how I am leading myself and my family, in Christ.  And if waiting isn’t a passive thing, then I’ll wait for my end of days, by living my life for the glory of his name while there is breath in my body. In the end, isn’t that what we’re all called to do?