Courage Part 2: In the Waiting

courage2aWait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14 ESV)

Moses. David. Joseph. Abraham. I could keep going, and maybe you could, too. The Bible contains in-depth, fascinating stories of waiting that simply amaze me. Forty years in a desert? If you have waited anything close to that, I want to hear about it. Many of you have experienced waiting for something valuable, something amazing. Something that was really worth the wait.

I am pregnant with my third child. I know how this 10 month wait works. It still is not easy, though. Every picture of a tiny newborn, the sweet sleeping eyes, the chubby cheeks…it just stirs up a longing to meet my own baby. Thankfully, my wait has an end date. I am certain I will not still be pregnant with this child in September. That certainty is really helpful on the exhausting, uncomfortable, frustrating days.

What about the wait of the adoptive parents? They fill out paperwork, look through pictures, and they can still wait for months or years in the hope of finding a child to call their own. The single man or woman who longs for marriage has no idea when or if the wait for love might end. I myself have not forgotten the loneliness of waiting for a simple date, waiting through college and then after college, watching while it happened for seemingly everyone else. The parents of a child who is lost in the world, stumbling in the dark with no apparent desire to serve God at all…their wait is excruciating no matter if it lasts for a few months or many, many years. The man who holds close the dream of a career he loves is in the meantime doing his best in work that feels unfulfilling and even meaningless.

David penned the above words from Psalm 27:14. David understood waiting with no idea of what the future might bring. I read David a Man of Passion and Destiny by Charles Swindoll many years ago. I own the entire Great Lives series, and this volume on David was the first one written. I came back to this book as I remembered the time David spent as a cave dweller, hiding from King Saul who wanted David dead. In chapter seven, “For Cave Dwellers Only,” Swindoll says the following:

“David has been brought to the place where God can truly begin to shape him and use him. When the sovereign God brings us to nothing, it is to reroute our lives, not end them.” (pg. 73)

Waiting feels like the end. Waiting is the end. As Swindoll points out, it is usually not the very end, but it is usually an end that also brings about a new beginning. My wait for this baby will end. When it does, our lives will completely change once again as they should when a family grows and welcomes a new member.

I am a mom who stays at home with preschool aged children. I was not always a mom, and for a while I was a mom who worked from home and cared for my daughter. Before I was a mom, I had a “career,” a fulfilling occupation in full-time ministry. I had to leave that career before I was ready to do so. I did not have a back-up plan or an equally fulfilling option around the corner. I spent a couple years working in a job that used some of my skills but was completely different from ministry. I waited, but my waiting did not in something even better than I expected.

I never spent a lot of time thinking about whether I would be a stay-at-home mom or a working mom during the early years of my children’s lives. I now cannot imagine having to leave my kids every day, and I am grateful for this blessing during this short season. However, while many moms may consider this a dream come true or the fulfillment of a great longing, I have not had those feelings many days. I miss my ministry colleagues. I worked with people who were much more like family than friends. I often wonder if I will ever experience anything quite like that again. I am now blessed to have an opportunity to serve at a small church plant with many people who I consider to be my Waverly family. The dynamics of serving as a volunteer, working from home, and squeezing in a few minutes of work here and there after bedtime or during naps are very different from the days of brainstorming meetings, planning retreats, and endless details (yes, I love details).

My life will never be the same as it was 7 or 8 years ago. God chose to reroute me, and I do not yet know how He wants to route me in the future. I believe each season will be different, and I am learning to accept that, to find the ways I can minister and be the love of Jesus wherever I am. It is primarily to my children right now, but I am also thrilled when I can bless others and feel that joy as well.

If you are waiting and unsure of how to find courage in that process, draw near to God. James 4:8 (ESV) says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

I think we usually like to skip over that second sentence. Sinners? Double-minded? That doesn’t feel good. But if I want to draw near to God, that is an essential component to doing so. Cleansing your hands and purifying your hearts will only come from seeking Him.  I have grown the most in my relationship with God when I am the most honest about my sin – my pride and selfishness and jealousy and the list goes on.

Find the courage to be honest with yourself, and you will find God in a deeper way than ever.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)

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Courage: Part 1

courage2a

I have never jumped off a diving board. EVER. I took swimming lessons as a child, but I was not a big fan of swimming in the deep end at all. At some point in time, I heard a story about a kid who jumped off a diving board, landed the wrong way, and broke his neck. That pretty much sealed the deal for me.

I am…risk averse. If I have time to weigh and measure the odds, I will do so. If not, I will lean towards the safe route, the path that requires the least amount of risk. For me to write about courage is not natural. I have done some things that take courage. I left home at age 17 to attend college 6 hours away. Most of my extended family still lived in Des Moines. I tried out for a popular ministry team that took only 12 members (a number of whom were returning). Last week, I wrote about how I moved to a small town where I knew three people. I have led worship for hundreds of people, spoken in public enough to overcome my fear of it, and have continued to do those things even after some intense failure at doing so. I think it takes more courage to stand up after falling down and to try again.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” It defines brave as “having or showing courage,” so I will use these words interchangeably.

I have so many friends who have exhibited enormous levels of courage through their life circumstances. I previously wrote about my friend Maggie who faced breast cancer with such peace and joy and now lives with Jesus. Another friend survived breast cancer and gave birth to a precious boy despite all the odds against her. Two very dear friends have experienced the deepest pain and betrayal in marriage and emerged on the other side with the story of God’s great grace.

I can go on and on. The pain of this life has at times completely taken my breath away. How do I find the courage to get out of bed in the morning, to live life and continue to function, to find ways to deal with the pain so it is no longer debilitating? How do you? You have certainly faced danger, fear, or difficulty. How did you move on from it? DID you move on from it? Are you still stuck in the fear, slave to the difficulty that you cannot get out of your mind? What situation has so captured your mind that you cannot see through the mess?

You are not alone. It takes great courage to face the difficulty and decide that it will not rule your life. Maybe your difficulty right now is not cancer or death or betrayal. Maybe your difficulty is deep loneliness. Your difficulty could be a loveless, lifeless marriage. These may not be obvious to others on the surface, but it requires great courage to face loneliness and rise above it. It takes incredible courage to be the wife or husband who chooses to invest and inject life into a marriage that feels like it is dead.

I will spend the next few posts on the subject of courage. I can think of a couple of areas in my life in which I need more courage. I need to make the choice to be present, to enter in and face the situation instead of hiding behind a phone or a book or a computer screen. I would love for you to join me if you need a little courage, too. Or even a lot.

You can subscribe to this blog on the right side of the page. I would love to have you join me.

2 Corinthians 4:6-9 (ESV) “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.”