Waiting, Waiting, Waiting
- Tuesday, December 04, 2012
Waiting, waiting... waiting.
It's what a lot of us seem to be doing a lot these days, isn't it? Waiting.
And we’re waiting for lots of things. Christ’s return, of course! But also a new job, perhaps. Or for the traffic in front of us to start moving again. Maybe an important e-mail. Or a report from our doctor.
We wait, and wait, and wait some more. About the only thing for which we never have to wait is, well... waiting.
Whether we like to admit it or not, many of us single believers are waiting on some sort of clarification on our marital status. We’re not waiting for confirmation that we’re without a spouse! Our lonely apartment – not to mention our lonely ring finger – already confirm that we’re not married.
No, many of us wait – even if it’s subconsciously – to see if we’ll ever get married, or if we have the “gift of singlehood” and just don’t know it yet. Some single believers seem quite capable of going through life without so much as checking “single” when they’re filling out their taxes. For them, being single exists as just another generic part of their identity, like their shoe size.
Others of us wait.
Maybe spiritually, we know that God’s timing is best. Maybe we’re even relieved that we didn’t commit too early to a relationship that would have unraveled, a miserable specter we may be watching unfold in too many of our friends’ rocky marriages. Maybe contentment with our singlehood is something that comes and goes, like the tide, betraying the reality that while overall, we’re satisfied in theory with waiting, it’s the waiting in reality that’s beginning to bug us.
Waiting can be excruciatingly frustrating. Hopefully, your parents, family, and friends aren’t bugging you about how long they’re having to wait for you to get married. Hopefully, too, your unsaved friends aren’t badgering you about waiting for marriage at all, as if living in sin is better than being married anyway. You’d likely not have to wait nearly as long to find somebody willing to do that with you.
When we trust that the good things God teaches us in His Word are better than throwing in the towel out of impatience, however, we realize that giving up on Him can only harm us.
Then again, sometimes we’re waiting, only we’re not sure what we’re waiting for. Are we waiting for God to bless us with a spouse, or are we waiting for God to bless us with contentment regardless of whether we ever get married?
Sometimes, too, patience can be its own reward. Either way, God will always reward it.
Waiting By the Side of the Road
About two thousand years ago, a blind beggar languished along the dusty roadside outside the gates of Jericho, which even then, was one of the world’s oldest cities. This blind beggar's name was Bartimaeus, and although we don't know how old he was, we can assume his was a undesirable life.
Whether he'd been blind from birth, or blinded from some accident or disease, being denied sight for any length of time in that culture would have been sheer misery. It's bad enough today in North America, where our culture is quite progressive in curing, treating, or providing assistance for people with vision problems. Two thousand years ago, blindness was a virtual prison.
About all a person like Bartimaeus could do back then was, if he was otherwise healthy enough, take up a spot alongside a road and beg all day long. Every day. Hoping that enough sympathetic passers-by would toss enough money your way to buy a simple supper. It’s possible that many people in Jericho knew Bartimaeus, or at least knew of him, since he likely spent all of his days begging, waiting for somebody to take pity on him.
Waiting, all day. Sometimes calling out when you heard people approaching, then slumping back against a wall or rock, and waiting some more.
Waiting, calling, begging. But most likely, mostly waiting. Waiting in utter darkness, even as you could feel the sun beating down on the body you couldn’t see.
Suddenly, Bartimaeus heard more than just the shuffling of passers-by. There was a commotion, and he learned that Jesus of Nazareth was going to be passing right by his spot by the road! Maybe Jesus would heal him!
He had to get Christ's attention.
So he hollered out, calling on Jesus to have mercy on him. He made such a ruckus and racket, calling out so desperately, that people in the crowd, who had relegated him to the sidelines of life, sitting out of the way of normal people, told him to be quiet.
Yet undoubtedly, this was just such an opportunity for which Bartimaeus would likely have never before dreamed. Maybe he'd spent his time waiting by the side of the road not only for enough money to make it through the day, but waiting for death itself. The commotion he himself causes in this passage creates the impression that he'd immediately realized this might be his one chance in his entire life to be healed from blindness - and he was frantically hoping to seize the moment.
Christ is the Creator of Perfect Timing
Christ, of course, knew Bartimaeus was nearby on the roadside. And he stopped, calling Bartimaeus to Himself.
Quickly, the crowd changed its tune, turned to Bartimaeus, and said, "well, what do you know! You've gotten His attention, and He wants to talk to you."
As you can imagine, Bartimaeus didn't need any more urging. He jumped to his feet, likely needing to be steadied by people in the crowd who only moments before were telling him to shut up. He threw off his cloak, perhaps so fully assured that Christ would heal him, he'd be able to retrieve it after his miracle, and he could see where it had fallen.
And sure enough, Christ performed his miracle, based on his blunt, honest, earnest faith.
We Christians know this story because of Christ’s amazing ability to heal a blind man. And indeed, Christ’s power is the core of this miracle. How easy it is for us to overlook, however, the amount of time Bartimaeus had to spend waiting, and not even knowing what he was waiting for! Christ knew He was going to heal Bartimeaus, but the blind beggar himself had started his day as he had every other one, with the imminent restoration of his sight completely off his radar.
Christ knew what Bartimaeus needed, just like He knows what we need, whether we’re actively waiting for those needs, or not. Yet the emotional, spiritual, and mental blindnesses with which we suffer may still be things we have to wait through until God's appointed time, when our waiting will finally be over.
Waiting can only be true agony when you don't trust the Person for Whom you're waiting.
May the Lord grant us the grace to wait as long as He would have us wait, and to wait with patience, hope, and even joy.
As the psalmist has so poignantly phrased it, wait on the Lord. Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord!
From his smorgasboard of church experience, ranging from the Christian and Missionary Alliance to the Presbyterian Church in America, Tim Laitinen brings a range of observations to his perspective on how we Americans worship, fellowship, and minister among our communities of faith. As a one-time employee of a Bible church in suburban Fort Worth, Texas and a former volunteer director of the contemporary Christian music ministry at New York City's legendary Calvary Baptist, he's seen our church culture from the inside out. You can read about his unique viewpoints at o-l-i.blogspot.com.
Publication date: December 4, 2012
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