May 4, 2014

Spiritual Neutral, Part I: Waiting Is the Hardest Part

And now for a brutally honest blog

I hate waiting. 

Yup, its true. This fruit of the Spirit usually called long-suffering or patience is sorely lacking at times in my Christian walk. In my writing I am becoming more and more honest about myself and open to others about my flaws because the Holy Spirit has been convicting me to do so. I guess this is for others to find comfort in the fact that they are not alone in this sometimes arduous journey to glory. It should not not make us complacent though. 

And now I am going to call you to do something that is completely counter-intuitive. The next two posts should be a call to action in our inaction. I can hear the groans already...what are ya talking about Andy? Have you lost you marbles? Let me clearly state the following: In what appears to be spiritual neutral, I quite possibly might be in spiritual overdrive.

Follow my train of thought folks.

I am not a very patient man and never have been either. You can ask family members or 
friends... I'm all about getting things done in the quickest, most accurate and efficient way possible. Perhaps this is why God led me to a Quality Engineering vocation along with ministry. God is all about getting things done too but God is sovereign and in control and I am not. I do things in His time, not mine. That is the enormous difference between He and I (besides divinity).

God is extremely patient and often uses this patience to affect ends in my life. The infinite and finite operate on different timescales. It took 2000 years from the time of David until the arrival of the promised Messiah Jesus. It took 400 years of slavery for the Egyptians to release the Hebrew slaves. It took an additional 40 years of desert wilderness wandering until God’s people were permitted to enter the Promised Land. It took 120 years for Noah to build the ark before it started raining…he did it in a desert that had never seen rain.

The divine timepiece is set to God’s reckoning and I need to synchronize my clock to God’s. I have needed to learn to wait…and often I need to wait to learn. Patience has been a learning experience and yes, it can be taught. I have needed to learn to take pause and realize that there is nearly always going be a delay between when I think things should take place and when God will allow them to take place. There is clearly an asynchronous element to my relationship with God and it is caused by my sin.

God will nearly always opt to postpone what I think could be done now. How well I wait is a very good indicator of my heart’s condition. What does it look like for you? Do you want that promotion now? Do you want the ills of your relationships to be forgiven and forgotten yesterday? Sorry, it will not work out that way. Healing takes time and even then, scars from serious trauma can remain. It is not an instantaneous process as I have learned. Time is of the essence. As Pink Floyd sang in their song Time from Dark Side of the Moon, time or waiting is living in light of circumstances and can be the, “…ticking away of moments that make up a dull day.” Conversely, it can also be incremental changes of healing that take a much longer duration. Perhaps longer than you ever imagined. You must remember something though. God is sovereign and if you’re waiting, you are waiting every second because God has ordained it. What you might see as Pink Floyd’s, “…fritter[ing] and waste[ing] the hours in an offhand way,” God sees as serving His divine purpose. I personally have found the grace and discipline of waiting on God’s timing to be the most difficult part of my Christian walk.

The discipline of Christian waiting is to live for a long sustained period of time when I don’t understand what God is doing behind the scenes. God has plans so I can rest assured in the fact that something is indeed transpiring out of my view. What’s worse is during these times I will not have any control over my circumstance. If I do try to control things I make them even worse. It is at this point I need to just go passive and allow God to act in my life either directly through me or through others. The end result is to effect a change. In this waiting, on the surface in real-time it looks as if He is doing absolutely nothing in my life or is purposely doing things to make life go down the tubes or go backwards. In these waiting periods it looks as if He is specifically sabotaging my life and messing with me. So much for looks. Looks are deceiving.

The nature of this type of waiting is excruciating. It takes me beyond my faith and my intelligence into the realm of the Holy Spirit and what God can do for me. Therefore, I am often out of my element as a sinful man. It is not about my ability at this point. It is about grace and faith since my physical ability will not do anything to move the situation forward. When I have a modicum of control over simple things in life I am comfortable. These waiting periods are not about control or comfort. It is all about discomfort and not having control. If I had control I would move things forward and I wouldn’t be uncomfortable, would I? 

Welcome to God’s world of grace. If I thought I could make sense of it, this would at least allow me mental control to rationalize the situation (and this would be a much shorter blog post). This isn’t about being rational or reasoning through something either. It is about faith, which sometimes…cannot be reasoned through or rationalized since it is of the Spirit. It (faith) can only be relied upon. These are places where my ability to logically think through something is utterly useless. God will not allow me to wrap my arms or mind around the situation and I am left with only the instrument of faith through grace to deal with it.

People have asked me in the past, “How will I know I am in one of these periods?” Trust me folks, you’ll know when you’re in them and you won’t need to ask. Once you are in this spiritual neutral position it will become unbearable and unrelenting. You will push to get somewhere or anywhere but will only succeed in getting to nowhere. It will push you to places you did not know you could enter and not let you enter places you were used to going. You will have entered a spiritual place that most will never arrive at and few know how to deal with. It will be totally foreign to the modern evangelical experience. I have not encountered many that have been there and few will be able to assist you. Why? Because most have not gotten there and if they did…they never made it back. If they didn’t make it back it is because they got lost in the middle of the barren landscape or lost in neutral. It will be a place marked by having no strongly marked characteristics or features. Its main characteristic is that it will have no notable characteristics. There are no roads signs out there. As I have said, it is barren and devoid of meaningful directions. God seems either conspicuously absent or deafeningly silent.

You will oscillate between not caring and senses of desperation that God is not acting on your behalf the way you think He should. The worst thing to do though is to assume that your gearshift is in Park. You must understand that you are capable of moving in Neutral but it will be in a mostly passive manner. Someone will need to push and steer. You will be moving but you will be in the back seat as an observer to your own life at times. You won’t be allowed in the driver’s seat nor will you be the fuel for movement. Something outside of you will be moving you forward and steering your vehicle/life. You will be in Neutral but you might still be moving somewhere. You will be somewhere in-between. It is a place where you will really know what it is to be still and know God is God.

Psalm 46:10 ~ “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The wordage here in Hebrew is precise. This passage is telling us to submit to the kingdom in faith. The command to “be still” הַרְפּ֣וּ is from the Hiphil stem of the verb raphe which means to “let go” or “let oneself become weak”. In other words surrender your will to God. We are to be still and know what? That God is God. That means God is all of God’s attributes including sovereign (i.e.: large and in charge). We are to give up trusting in ourselves / others and trust the only trustworthy One: God. If we surrender to the truth that God is indeed in control, we then can find peace in even the worst and most trying circumstance of waiting because the wait is being caused by Him for His purpose. Once we understand this, the knowing offers us at least the piece of mind that the wait will not be in vain for a negative purpose.

It is in this "spiritual neutral" that I am learning to truly trust God in true faith that only this waiting period can teach me. Is it easy? No, nor was it meant to be. It is there to test my faith and the condition of my heart. Why? Because God is not interested in what I want here and now. He is interested in what I have coming in the hereafter. 

Here is another instance where the rubber meets the road of life. This is where theology meets practice. It is the junction point of faith and substance in a true believer’s life. This is the fuel that fires the engine that drives the tires that moves us down the road of the Christian journey. The question then becomes: Will I leave a burnout or will I just stall the engine when it comes time to jam it in gear? It must be understood that God will not keep me in neutral forever. He has a purpose for me in this life and because He does, it precludes the fact that I would stay in neutral indefinitely.

God forces me through these periods to show me that I should not try to find my securities in the physical worldly circumstances or myself. My hope is to be found in Him, in Christ. In the One that has the ability to give life in the face of death. God puts me through these periods to show that there isn’t even deliverance from petty earthly problems through my own means or own works. Only through Him and His work is there gain in painful waiting periods.

So what is another reason for needing to go through the wait? Perhaps it is to do what I am doing now? I am writing to you. Perhaps it is the same reason people need to suffer at times. I am learning to wait on God so when the next person goes through a similar event, I will be there for them to walk them through this passive spiritual no-man’s-land. It is a vast empty plain that makes little sense to the one standing in the middle of it. It requires someone that has already walked through it and is anchored at the outer edges to makes sense of it. It is sometimes hard to find one’s way out of a blinding desert sandstorm without assistance. Knowing this to be true I am writing this to not only find catharsis in my situation, I am also trying to draw up a map for the next person to find their way out of this barren wilderness once they get out of neutral. Perhaps God is working through me to help you out of your waiting or at least help you understand it?

We all must understand that waiting is pivotal in the lives of Christians that serve others. Ministry involves the need to interact with other people. We can only do things at the speeds that the other people can handle or process situations. If we try to move them along faster than God wants or they can handle, we might be walking outside of God’s plan for them. Waiting also requires a sensitive self-awareness and others-awareness. This ability comes with patience and time. It requires waiting. Ministry is, at its heart, a waiting game that waits on God to act (or not).

As with everything else in the Christian life, there is a God-relationship aspect to this which will be explored in the next post. 

[ Continued in Part II ]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Neighbor:)

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