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by Chad O'Leary
The Holy Waiting. To me, Holy Saturday is one of the most powerful days of the entire liturgical year. Growing up, however, it seemed strange that we would have liturgies on Thursday, Friday and Sunday -- but nothing on Saturday before the Great Vigil. I remember just sitting around the house. Was it a break? A time to dye eggs and hide baskets? Certainly not.
If we've done our "Lenting," Holy Saturday is that last pregnant pause to sit with our tension before emerging transformed, with Christ, on Easter Sunday.
In our preparation to become educators, we are told to embrace a "I do, we do, you do" model. We begin learning by first seeing someone else model something, then we practice, and finally we reach a point where we are able to perform on our own. I think that this is very applicable to our own learning during the season of Lent. Each Ash Wednesday we commit ourselves to using Jesus as a model for re-examining the basics of our humanity and call to godliness. Then, each day afterward we study scripture and many of us choose to take on that ministry in a variety of different ways (praying, giving of alms, etc.). Now, on Holy Saturday, we stand at the end of our 40 days of preparation. We have been trained. We wait. It's time for the "I do" part of the learning model.
Iwish to share an article that I read several years back that I found to be very inspiring about this Holy Waiting. I keep it close every Lenten season. It is by a young pastoral theologian called Bonnie Dowie and she talks about how we need to learn to wait better in our culture. She suggests that staying present, resisting passivity, holding onto hope, remaining thankful, and trusting process are key to a holy waiting.
When I was in Uganda recently, my friend told me a story about waiting. (Africans always seem to have a proverb up their sleeve, offering wisdom for every occasion in a delightfully simple and engaging way).
The story was about a boy who asked his father for a fish to eat, because he was hungry. So the father went out, caught a fish, and began preparing it. The boy said impatiently to his father, ‘I want it now!’ The father told him he would have to wait until it was ready. But the boy became very cross, repeatedly shouting ‘I want to eat it NOW!’, throwing himself on the ground, kicking his legs and crying.
As silly as the story might sound, we are often like the little boy. Demanding things NOW, and throwing tantrums when we think we’ve waited long enough. But all the while, God is working carefully to prepare what we have asked for. And because he is a good dad who wants the best for us, he won’t allow us to have it before it’s ready…or before we’re ready to receive it.
We need to learn how to wait well
Our modern day culture does not exactly lend itself to waiting well. We want things, and we want them now…we are a microwave society.
But the reality is, whether it’s waiting for the bus or dinner to be cooked, or waiting for God to answer our deepest desires and prayers, life is full of waiting. Surely then, we ought to learn how to do it well. How can we do that? Here are some thoughts.
Stay presentThere’s a big temptation to put life on hold when we’re eagerly waiting for something. We can feel like we’re in ‘limbo land’… just waiting until that ‘thing’ happens so life can begin again.
We’ve got to resist this temptation. Don’t disengage from life. Stay present – you can’t live in tomorrow. Don’t miss all the opportunities to live the life that’s right in front of you, now. It’s good to walk towards a vision, but don’t be so fixed on the destination ahead that you end up missing the beauty and purpose in your present surroundings.
Don’t be passiveWaiting isn’t supposed to be passive. If we choose to be passive, expecting what we’re hoping for to land in our lap without any effort on our own behalf,
we’re more likely to delay the process. Or possibly stretch it out forever.
Waiting is not a waste of time unless you allow it be. Choose to stay fully engaged in your season of waiting. If you’re waiting for a spouse, for example,
maybe ‘waiting’ looks like taking some risks, facing fears, and going on dates. Or maybe it just looks like praying a lot. Ask God what waiting looks like for you, and then do that!
Hold onto hopeWaiting a long time for something we desire, especially when we don’t know when or if it will come to pass, is hard. ‘Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life’ (Proverbs chapter 13 verse 12).
It’s okay to acknowledge exactly how your heart is feeling when you’re waiting for something. In fact, it’s healthy. But how do we stop ourselves from descending into a pit of despair, frustration and bitterness when our longings go unfulfilled?
We hold onto hope. Not just hope that things we long for will come to pass…we cling to the God of hope. If he is our biggest desire and longing, he will not let our hearts grow sick. Holding tightly to him enables us not just to endure seasons of waiting, but causes us to thrive in them. He is the hope that never disappoints.
Stay thankfulSometimes we withhold our thankfulness and joy until the moment we have what we want. It’s not often our first response to worship God when we feel like our prayers are going unanswered.
But guess what? God is good, and his love never fails. Even when nothing seems to be going to plan, and chaos surrounds us, God is still on the throne. He is sovereign, he is mighty, his plans for us are good. He didn’t promise an easy life, but he did promise he would never leave us.
So be thankful now. Praise him for who he is now. Don’t withhold yourself from him until you get what you want. If you do, you’re only selling yourself short of what’s available to you – the beauty of intimacy with Jesus through every season in life. After all, knowing Jesus is about walking with him and being in love – not just knowing him so we can get things we want!
Trust the processWhen a woman is pregnant, there’s not much she can do to hurry up the process of giving birth. In the final weeks, she might try every old wives’ tale in the book to encourage the baby to come quickly, but ultimately it comes when it’s ready. She can’t try or work to make it come. The best thing she can do is rest and not stress.
God’s timing is impeccable. Often it’s impossible for us to see this, because we’re only looking at one piece of the puzzle, when he sees the whole puzzle from a bird’s eye view. We really need to trust God more than we trust our own judgement of how we think things should pan out.
God does not waste any of our waiting. He prepares us and gets everything ready to give us the absolute best. Be encouraged. God is in the waiting.
May the Spirit bless your holy waiting today and may you each have a blessed Easter celebration tomorrow.
We know the ending: He shall rise!