So, as the forecasters predicted a near-repeat, we all watched carefully. The empty store shelves at WalMart made national news. I half-joked that the way out of a recession is bad weather. As the week progressed, the storm slowed and increased in power. The arrival time was pushed back, and back, and back. Ice totals decreased, snow totals increased. By Thursday everyone was on pins and needles, ready for ... something.
As it turned out, so far it hasn't been nearly as bad as anticipated. Where I live we had enough ice to make driving dangerous, but we still have power. I watched it sleet all morning and am watching it snow all afternoon. Some areas still face a lot of ice, and I'll be praying for them. But the storm has allowed me time for reflection - something I always appreciate. What has surfaced is how much waiting on the ice storm parallels the waiting we do in the Christian life.
We do a lot of waiting. Waiting on answered prayers. Waiting on direction. Waiting on a word from the Lord. Waiting on transformation in our hearts. All the waiting, shadows of the ultimate waiting - waiting on His return. What have I learned from waiting on the ice storm that can help me in the spiritual discipline of waiting?
- Prepare. A season of waiting is not a season of inactivity. We can prepare in many ways. We prepare for answered prayer by moving forward with things we'll need to do if the prayer is answered. One of my favorite examples of this is from a book I read. A character was trying to purchase a bookstore. She decided to spend the days waiting on the response preparing by doing things she would have to do if the prayer was answered, things that would need to be done regardless of whether God said yes or no. She packed her apartment (she would have to move whether the answer was yes or no); she cleared out the bookstore's storage room (which would have to be cleared regardless); she decided to be ready with her business plan. When the yes came, she was able to move forward quickly. When we're waiting on direction, it's a similar type of preparation. If we are asking God which job to take, we can still prepare by learning about both companies. Sometimes God guides through the process itself. If we're waiting on a word from the Lord we can spend extra time in the Word. And of course, Scripture teaches us the best way to prepare for return of the Lord is by living holy lives and being about our Father's business.
- Maintain a sense of anticipation. We can enjoy a season of waiting by enjoying the anticipation. I don't enjoy surprises because I feel I've lost the opportunity to look forward to something. Currently my husband and I are planning a mini-vacation. I anticipate that trip every day. We talk about it, research it, think about it. That's what we can do in a season of waiting on God. We can anticipate the answer; we can get excited about what He might reveal; we can eagerly look forward to spending eternity with Him. Have you heard the song "Fingerprints and Noses"? It talks about a group of developmentally challenged kids who, when they are taught about the return of Christ, run to the window and press their fingerprints and noses against the pane, looking for Him to come. We can maintain that sense through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Involve others. Our time of waiting on the ice storm hasn't been kept to ourselves. All week people have shared what they've seen and heard. Our city started a Twitter feed to keep people informed if the power went out. When something like this is coming, we want others to know about it. So I asked myself - why not let others know when I'm anticipating answered prayers, needing direction, hoping for a word from God? Why not tell those who have never heard about the joys of anticipating Christ's return? This week has been a good reminder to get outside myself.
- Function as a community. Closely related is the importance of being a community. Last year's ice storm brought neighbors together who rarely communicated. People relied on each other because we had too. Fayetteville is extremely eclectic, and full of opinionated people (guilty!). But during the ice storm, differences didn't matter. We were one community with one problem and one goal - to survive! In a season of waiting, we can bond with the body of Christ like no other time. We can help each other and pray for each other and move forward with God-honoring plans together. Waiting is a great time to remind ourselves that we were created to be in community.
- Don't let down your guard. It's so easy when something doesn't happen quickly, or in the way we anticipated, to let down our guard. Prior to last year's storm, we had a lot of "false alarms" in Fayetteville. We have this "bubble" of Ozark Mountains that often deflects the worst of weather. So people didn't take the warnings as seriously as they should have, and many were unprepared. This year, that didn't happen. Although it wasn't as bad as anticipated, people learned not to let down their guard. When we are in a time of waiting, God may not answer as we anticipate, guide as soon as we hoped, speak the word we preferred. Don't give up. He is still there, and knows what is best for all involved and that timing that is perfect. Throughout the centuries Christians have wondered about His coming, since it hasn't happened yet. 1 Peter reminds us that His waiting is not because He's slow about His promises. He waits because all have not had the opportunity to believe in Him. One of the best ways to stay excited about His return is to be on mission with Him. Every people group that is reached with the Gospel takes us one step closer to His promised return. Whatever you're waiting on - don't let down your guard if it doesn't happen.