The Task of “Waiting-Waiting”
The Task of “Waiting-Waiting”
“I waited patiently for the Lord…” (Psalm 40:1a)
I am reading through the Psalms this year as a part of my morning devotions. I never could have predicted on January 1 when I made this decision, but WOW this is a great year to be reading through the Psalms. This week I began working my way through the 90s. I still have many more ahead of me if I am to get to Psalm 150 by the end of 2020! So far, so good! I highly recommend Timothy Keller’s The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms. His introductory advice of journaling responses each day using the headings “Adore”, “Admit”, and “Aspire” have been a blessing for me in my daily engagement with these Psalms.
The Psalms are truly, as Tim Keller and many others have pointed out, “The Songs of Jesus.” They were his heart texts and the God-music to which his daily movements on earth were set. Jesus employs them in his teaching ministry; he shares them from the cross. The metaphors, emotions, and convictions of the Psalmist are reflective of our human experience. In them we encounter deep joy, deep lament, deep celebration, and even deep despair.
We all have our favorite psalms, and some we have even memorized. For me, I’ll always love 121. It was my grandmother’s favorite. She was raised in rural Bedford, Virginia. When she lifted her eyes “unto the hills”, she was visualizing the Peaks of Otter instead of the hills around Jerusalem. She saw God’s majesty all the same, and she knew “from whence cometh (her) help.” She was a deep inspiration to me, and if you visit my office you will see photos of her and of our beloved Peaks of Otter.
I’ll also always love 23. As you may remember from my installation service in 2018, the metaphor of shepherding, and our own identity as the flock, have always been a deep part of my understanding of ordination, our life in the church, and life beyond our years here on earth.
During this time of pandemic, upheaval, and trial, other Psalms have spoken to my spirit. I will now add 40 to my list of closest Psalms.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
In earlier years, I focused on finding a “firm place to stand” and “a new song” as I was establishing my vocation. In my recent studies of this Psalm, I find myself focusing on the first verse – “I waited patiently for the Lord.” This is truly a season of waiting, and as I get in touch with my own impatience, I also observe the impatience of others around me. We are all a bit impatient right now. We are going through a time of global pandemic; there are many things we cannot control.
I appreciate Keller’s observation that in Hebrew the proper literal translation of “I waited patiently for the Lord” is “I waited-waited for the Lord.” He reminds us that “the doubling of a term conveys intensification and magnitude. This means not passivity but great concentration.” (Tim Keller, The Songs of Jesus, p.82)
When I reflected on this Psalm as it appeared on my page in March, we were only a few weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic. That day, I adored God for always hearing our cries of concern. I admitted that day in my journal that I felt COVID-19 would bring a brand new kind of waiting. I aspired that day to “wait wait” with God and for God during this season. Now, in the fifth month of “waiting-waiting”, I have had to redouble my efforts at patience. I imagine many of you have had to do the same. It’s very hard to make plans; every gathering is both risk and struggle. It affected my daughter’s wedding plans in May, and just this week I sent my son off for his senior year at Appalachian State University. I returned home concerned for his safety and well-being as he shares space with others at a very large student apartment complex. This school year will bring more “wait waiting” for this mom.
Similarly, I feel we have had to “wait wait” in our congregational lives. I am so aware that many of you miss in-person, indoor worship, as do I. I was taught to love worship as a child, and I mark my weeks by my attendance at Sunday worship. I’m one of those people who drags the family to worship on vacation. It just makes my week right to be in worship!
When our Cabinet met last week, we could not see a way that we could confidently recommend moving towards in-person indoor worship just yet. The data just does not give us confidence to recommend that to you. We recommend “waiting-waiting” just a little bit longer, for the health and well-being of everyone. I found Bishop Leeland’s pastoral message from Annual Conference to be such a comfort, and I encourage you to share it during this season.
There will be a time to plant our feet firmly back in our indoor worship spaces. We will be back. At that time, God will indeed offer us many “new songs”, and God will give us a renewed appreciation for corporate worship. In the meantime, it does feel like a season of great longing, and a time of waiting-waiting. God has given us the capacity for patience; I have found I have had to dig deep to find my share. Growing in patience is to grow incrementally. I find that the more patience I have, the more I grow in other areas, too. “Waiting-waiting” is somehow good for God’s people.
Pray with me that we may all continue to work our way through this hard season, that we may stay well and do our best to keep others well. Pray for continued fruitful research and for cases in all our zip codes to begin to decrease. As Keller writes, “concentrate” on the task of waiting. ADORE that God is with us as we wait. ADMIT your impatience. We’re human! ASPIRE to be found faithful as a follower of Jesus Christ.
With you as we “wait wait” together,