What Are You Waiting For?

A twenty-something star-crossed beauty, decked out with a scarf around her neck and sweater UGGS over her jeans, craning her neck for a sighting of her fiance.  A busy 2 year old boy, blowing frosty impressions on the glass as he watches the planes, holding a sign “Welcome Grandma and Grandpa!”   Parents anxiously checking their watches, then the arrival board, wondering aloud if their college student remembered to pack enough clothes for the 5 week break between semesters. Soldiers in uniform, burying their heads in the shoulders of wives and babies and parents as spontaneous applause erupts around them.

Airports.  I love airports, especially around Christmas.  There is an excitement, a buzz of emotions that can’t help but catch me and wrap me up as I join the throng of humanity in advent of homecoming.  I usually end up shedding a tear or two as I happily wait to hug family that I haven’t been able to touch in months, except through the virtual world of Facetime.

We enter the season of waiting.  Waiting for packages to arrive from UPS or the Postal Service.  Waiting for Christmas music 24/7.  Waiting for A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph and Frosty and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town to be available on Netflix or aired on TV.  We prepare grocery lists and menus.  We decorate the house and wrap presents, all in preparation for The Big Day.  Christmas.

Advent.  The dictionary defines advent as “the coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important.”  But for something important to come, we must wait first.  Waiting isn’t always easy, and sometimes we don’t know what we are waiting for. You may be waiting for a toddler to reach a developmental milestone or a teenager to pick up their room or a prodigal to come home. You may be waiting on a friend to forgive you or a husband to notice you.  Maybe you wait for the overwhelming torrent of grief to be replaced by just a heartstring pull and sweet memories.

Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus wait, in Luke 11:1-43.  I used to think of the story of Lazarus as mostly an account of resurrection.Which it is. But it is also a story about waiting. I love this account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It teaches us so much about our own humanity. I love the disciples. We see their human side.

When Jesus tells the disciples that he is going back to Bethany, they immediately start trying to talk him out of it. “But Rabbi, a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”

When Jesus tells them that Lazarus has fallen asleep, but He’s going back to wake him up, the disciples then think they’ll give Jesus advice.

“Lord, if he sleeps, he’ll get better.”

Clearly, the disciples don’t want to make this journey back to Bethany.  Dear Thomas, who probably wasn’t the most naturally brave of them all says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Can’t you just see Thomas? Squaring his shoulders, sitting up straight and, realist that he was, determining already in his mind that Jesus was going to die if he went to see Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

And Jesus doesn’t just wait a day or two after Lazarus died. No, he waits 4 days after Lazarus died.  What was He doing?  God, what are you doing?  Do you hear me?  Don’t you understand the situation?  Why do I have to do this?  How long do I have to WAIT?

We have Jesus who seems to have taken his time and arrived too late. We have disciples who are trying to give the Son of God advice and talk him out of his plans. We have sisters, dear friends of Jesus, who are grieving.

What does God teach us about waiting?

1) Waiting teaches us that God understands us and grieves with us even though He already knows the outcome. Jesus already knew that Lazarus was dead. Yet, when he came to Bethany and saw the sorrow of Mary and the others, he wept with them. God knows our frailty.

2) Waiting teaches us who is in control. It might seem sometimes like our circumstances are in control, or governments are in control, or any number of things (even our emotions!) but ultimately, the God of the Universe is the one in control. This is one of the foundations of my faith.I  can trust a God who has an ultimate purpose for my life and that purpose is to conform me to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

What did Thomas do?  He assumed the worst, didn’t he?  He thought about the “What if?” and assumed that they would all die. How often do we get way ahead of God’s purposes and assume the worst?  We need to wait expectantly for all of the amazing things God will do so that we can say, “God’s hand has surely done this!”

3) Waiting teaches us to go on with life.  This is one of the hardest of life’s lessons. Mary and Martha had to go on with life while they waited for Jesus to come. They had to go through the ritual of preparing their brother’s body and burying him. There was more to the grief than just that Jesus didn’t come “in time.” Jesus was a dear friend. They wanted to see him in person.

4) Waiting teaches us that God is purposeful in every thing He does, even when He seems to delay.

From the very beginning, Jesus stated His purpose: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Luke 11:4

When Martha and Mary both say, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died,” I used to think they were reproaching Jesus for not coming. However, read what Martha says next : “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Luke 11:21, 22 What an acknowledgement of who Jesus was and is!

Where are you today? Are you waiting on circumstances to change? Be encouraged! God knows, he empathizes with you, and he has a plan. Just as His plan for our salvation through the advent of Emmanuel carried through time, even before it was time.  He spoke hope into the darkness, the void, the nothingness.

He is WITH YOU.  Emmanuel.  God WITH US.

It is for God’s glory that God’s Son may be glorified through it!  Luke 11:4

 

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Bragging Rights

Hundreds of thousands of wooden pylons constructed from a type of wood that resists water decay support one of the most famous landmark cities in the world, Venice, Italy.  St. Mark’s Square, The Bridge of Sighs, gondolas and their navigators, the Grand Canal remind us of this unique European treasure.

One of the most famous icons of Venice is one many may not know originated there.

            The mask.

            When we come to Christ, we are invited to take off our mask.  But do we exchange the mask that the world gave us for another mask – the one that says we have to have it all together as a Christian?I whispered into the darkness from a college bunk bed at the age of 20 and asked this God Who Was There to make Himself at home in my broken heart and soul.  A couple of short years later, I decided to forego my major and go on staff with a Christian parachurch organization when I graduated from college. While going through summer staff training, I shared with others at the dinner table about how I came to know Christ, the pain of growing up with an artistically-gifted and beautiful mother who was sometimes mentally ill and the quicksand of emotions our family dealt with, often closing myself behind doors of performance-based expectations.

A teacher interrupted me.
“I wouldn’t share that with too many people. That might be too much information.”  Confusion pulled my soul in opposite directions – self-protected or God-protected?  How could I help others if I was not vulnerable in trusting God with the past?
            In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul writes this profound verse:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me.”
Read it  out loud (I promise, it will only seem strange once.  There is nothing better than speaking the Word wherever we are)!  Do you hear the truth?  When we glory in our weaknesses, Christ’s power rests on us.  Let me say that again.  Christ’s power rests on us.  Strangely and sadly, our culture perverts the truth by telling us that power comes through hiding our shortcomings.  Culture twists this thing called power and goes even further to tell us we must exalt our strengths and play on other’s weaknesses.I don’t know about you, but boasting happily about the weak parts of my character or my life is not a natural thing.  I’ve often played a kind of Christian game with God, myself, and others.  I imagine I’ve appeared pretty foolish to not only God but also to a great number of people.  The more we try to hide our flaws, the more we reveal them.

Paul never details his weakness for us.  Instead, he’s the Paul we know and love and He exalts Christ alone.  We don’t always need to share all the messy details.  We should pray for discernment. But we can draw attention upward by being an example of God’s grace to the imperfect.

Do you send out a Christmas letter?  Have you ever gotten the one that was basically a brag sheet (we could call it a glory sheet as well) and gushed something like this?  ”And my 5 year old Susie got her PhD in Molecular Biology from MIT.  Johnny got a 4.0 and a full-ride scholarship to 1000 universities.” (I may or may not have sent one similar.)  The best Christmas letter we ever received? From a family that listed things like how many pairs of underwear their dachshund ran off with and how many dinners were burned.  Do you know why we loved it?  Because they shared from the imperfect of that place called home and made us laugh in the process.  We could relate.  Whew…mask OFF.  Paul relates that kind of Christmas letter with us.

Breaking the strongholds and chains of our past can only happen when Christ’s power rests on us,  literally in the Greek, His power “tabernacles over us.”  CHRIST is over us.  Because CHRIST IS THE TABERNACLE.  The second half of that verse is almost like a double affirmative.Do you see?

“Christ’s power, Christ on me.”

Christ’s power, Christ on YOU. What chains bind you?  Do you hear them breaking as His holy self covers you?

God broke the chains of my mask. The more that I know and love this God in Three, this God with a personality, the more I trust Him.  And the more I trust Him, the more I know He covers me.  As He covers me, I can reach out to others from the protection of His covering.

Untie the ribbons that hold your mask on.


And glory, sister.  Glory.

 


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