My sister got married a few weeks ago. We celebrated in Michigan at the most pinterest perfect wedding you could imagine–the nephew babe rode in a wagon down the aisle, my dad gave her away and led them through their “I do’s”, our whole family hit the dance floor, and we ate pie for wedding day dessert.
It was perfect.
A couple weeks later, she and her new husband, Brian, made their way to Georgia where my parents’ church threw her a wonderful southern reception. Neither my sister nor I have spent significant amounts of time there and we look enough alike that inevitably one of us is mistaken for the other. We don’t mind. On this day, a sweet lady complimented me on my tan and innocently inquired how my honeymoon had been. I tucked that compliment away (it’s not often my usually-fair-skin would be considered tan!) and graciously answered her that I believed Katy had a wonderful time in Mexico. She quickly moved on and continued the conversation with her and I pondered this long season of waiting.
I’ve often remarked that the frustration of this waiting is not mainly that I don’t have a forever +1, but rather that there are so many steps between here and there. Though the past few months have indeed found me walking farther than ever before in some areas, there are others where I’ve stood still for so long that I’m not even sure my muscles remember how to work. Forward movement would be best, but even two steps backward could keep me in practice!
When we are journeying toward the promise, anxious to see the fulfillment in our lives, any delay seems an inconvenience at best, a waste of precious time. We’re waiting on jobs, babies, dreams and desires; books, healing, freedom and plenty. We’re waiting on the end of wars and the beginnings of battles. Whatever the waiting is on, standing still seems a contradiction.
At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out.
The Lord not only led the Israelites “around” the wilderness way, delay enough towards inhabiting their promised land, but there were times when he asked them to camp in the middle of the desert for months on end, to put their stakes in the ground and to make a home in the middle of their waiting until he saw fit to lead them on.
Guys. I’ve built a full on mansion here on my sandy plot of land. I’ve squatted in the same spot for so long that there are road signs with my name on them and statues built in my honor. Though I claim to be eager for him to move me even one step closer to the prize, the truth is that the longer I wait, the less alert I am for his stirring, the less in tune I am to his advance.
But the Israelites had to be ready to march whenever the cloud set out, ready to move at the Lord’s command. Sentinels kept watch by day and by night, eager for any sign the Lord was leading them on. They kept themselves in constant readiness, not knowing when the cloud would stir.
Michael always reminds me that the Lord does not move quickly, but he does move suddenly. In our waiting, we are called to pitch our tents on borrowed ground, to build only temporary shelters on this desert land, and to keep our eyes on the One who neither slumbers nor sleeps. The work of waiting is to commit ourselves to satisfaction in makeshift homes, while maintaining a holy discontent that keeps us longing for advance.
To you who resist the waiting, who have blueprints of plans that nothing can stop:
Stop. Exhale. Let out your sigh. Your rest in the waiting doesn’t minimize your commitment to the promise you bear.
And to you who have given up hope, who have purposed to build a white picket fence around your desert tent and call it good enough: Remember the whispers of something more. Remember the promise the Lord deposited in you. Remember the battle cry that birthed your freedom and roar as you pull your stakes from the ground. This is not your forever home, keep yourself ready for the move.