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  • Barry Sherbeck

The Mysteries of Active Waiting

a reflection by Barry Sherbeck

The life, death, and resilience of Jesus, these acts through history of God continuously entering into God's own creative work, then demonstrating sacrificial love to the Nth degree, is so full of deep mystery. Anyone in our day who would explain it with a few simple bullet points would be denying this deep mystery.

The act of waiting through the season of Lent is not a passive posture, like waiting can be.

Some routine waiting which punctuates our lives can indeed be quite passive, like waiting for snow to melt, waiting for a stoplight, waiting for a friend, waiting for bread dough to rise, waiting for a diagnosis, waiting for a pandemic to pass.

I find that the waiting through the 45 days of Lent requires alert patience, attentiveness (which I often don't give it), and receptivity.

Antenna activated. Radar on and scanning. WiFi signal strong. Ear to the ground. Musical instruments tuned. Ready to collaborate with God, but not getting ahead of God.

Not merely busy with frantic doing (and there is a valid time and place for doing), but slowly occupied with watching and waiting, with a sense of longing and hope, for the continued realization of God's full intentions, on earth, as it is in heaven.

Scripture speaks often of watching and waiting, in the same breath. Waiting, with watchfulness, is not easy, and is not passive. It is hard work.

Proverbs 8:34

Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.

Psalm 25:5

Guide me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You [and only You] I wait [expectantly] all the day long.

Psalm 27:14

Wait for the Lord;

be strong and take heart

and wait for the Lord.

Psalm 33:20

We wait expectantly for the Lord, who is our help and our shield.

Psalm 39:7

And now, Lord, for what do I expectantly wait? My hope [my confident expectation] is in You.

Psalm 130:5

I wait [patiently] for the Lord, my soul [expectantly] waits, And in God's word do I hope.

Psalm 130:6

I pray to God—my life a prayer—and wait for what God will say and do. My life’s on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning, waiting and watching till morning. (MSG)

I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. (NIV)

Micah 7:7

But as for me, I will look expectantly for the Lord and with confidence in the Lord I will keep watch; I will wait [with confident expectation] for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.

Isaiah 26:8

Indeed, in the path of Your judgments, O Lord, We have waited expectantly for You; Your name, even Your memory, is the desire and deep longing of our souls.

And actually, according to Isaiah's poetic words, if we actively watch and wait, we would be imitating God:

Isaiah 30:18

Therefore the Lord waits expectantly and longs to be gracious to you, and therefore the Lord waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who long for God, since God will never fail them.

Matthew 24:42

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

Colossians 4:2

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

James 5:7

So wait patiently, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits [expectantly] for the precious harvest from the land, being patient about it, until it receives the early and late rains.

God's instruction to Habakkuk (1:5-6)

Look at the nations and watch

and be utterly amazed.

For I am going to

do something in your days

that you would not believe,

even if you were told."

Habakkuk's response (2:1)

"I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint."

The more recent prophet, Bob Dylan, possibly riffing on Habakkuk, reminds us:

"There must be some kind of way outta here... there's too much confusion... I can't get no relief... the hour is getting late... all along the watchtower... outside in the cold distance, a wildcat did growl, two riders were approaching, and the wind began to howl... all along the watchtower..."

What new insights and deep works of transformation might God be ready (and waiting) to bring into our lives this week, and next week, in these latter days of the season of Lent? Especially if we are willing to watch, and wait, along with God.


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