How do you wait… patiently, joyfully?

Waiting.  And waiting.  Wait some more.  My kids have a memory of sitting in “timeout.”  When they were little, timeouts frequently occurred for not being kind to one another.  This meant that the pair of offenders sat together.  Holding hands.  On the bottom step.  Can you picture two little ones waiting holding hands on the steps until they decide they wanted to be friends again?

 

So the first ten seconds always involved silent, sullen scowls with a seeming preference for a total lack of eye contact. Yet, typically, in less than five minutes happy giggling ensued.  Typically.  Giggling signaled an effective timeout.  After apologizing and hugging the two newly made-up friends would be excused to scamper off and play.

 

That being said, there may have been a couple of times that a certain mother did not hear any giggling which would remind her that there were two little children sitting on the bottom step waiting to be excused from time-out.  Five minutes easily turns to ten minutes.  Then ten minutes quickly turns to fifteen!

 

Depending on one’s perspective and circumstances, fifteen minutes can equal an eternity!

 

Have you ever had the feeling that you’re in “timeout?” 

 

“Hey Lord!  I’m over here…”  Waiting.  And waiting.  Waiting some more.  Longing for God to answer, to give a sign that He remembers.

 

This week’s Bible study centered on the idea of surrendering our times of waiting.  So what kind of a “wait-er” are you?

 

This topic of waiting is seen in the story of the prodigal son found in Luke 15:11-32.  Inspired by the thoughts of Henri’s Nouwen’s Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, I observe three different kinds of waiting as I re-read this beloved parable: impatient, bitter and unfailing.

 

First, there is the younger son: the impatient “wait-er.” 

 

He wants his inheritance and he wants it NOW:

 

The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Luke 15: 12

 

Probably a teenager, the younger son does not want to wait until his father’s death to receive his inheritance.  Not wait until his father dies?  Impetuous at best!  And for the cultural times?  Scandalous indeed!

 

Judaism wisdom literature offered advice about this kind of request:

 

To son or wife, to brother or friend, give no power over yourself while you live; and give not your goods to another so as to have to ask for the again. Sirach 33:19-23

 

To give away your estate too soon was to risk falling into another person’s care.  Yet, the father in Jesus’s story grants the son’s impetuous request anyway.  As the younger son, he would have received one-third of the estate. 

 

Here is a picture of our Heavenly Father who lets a sinner go his own way.

 

Do you identify with the impatient waiting of the younger brother?  I do.  I suppose we all do. Specifically, I think of times I’ve waited for God to act.  Impatient, I get ahead and go my own way.  I’ll solve things my way.

 

Oh!  The ways we get ahead of God’s plan and refuse to wait like the younger son!  With our plans.  With our actions.  Even with our words.  I’m infamous for this one.  Going ahead without thinking, the words lay out there like toothpaste from the tube.  There’s no way to scoop them back in.

 

Many words mark the speech of a fool.  Ecclesiastes 5:3

 

What is feared takes place.  The younger son squanders everything on wild living.  Similarly, foolish words squander relationships.

 

Next, there is the older son.  He waits outside in bitterness.

 

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.

 

This fellow sees life as utterly unfair with the deck stacked against him:

 

But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

 

Notice that in his bitterness he even refuses to recognize or acknowledge his brother as alive.  Instead, he refers to the prodigal as “your son.”  And yet, this self-righteous, elder brother refuses to befriend the home-comer.

 

The father responds without defensiveness. The compassionate father is equally compassionate with the eldest son.  He simply invites him in.  Even pleads:

 

But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

 

“This brother of yours” is back from the dead.  A sinner found is cause to celebrate! 

 

Refusing his father’s invitation, the agnostic remains on the outside.  Waiting bitterly.

 

This character is especially relevant in Luke’s gospel.  For contextually, Jesus is speaking directly to the Pharisees.  

 

Ugh!  Like the Pharisees back in Jesus’s day, we people sometimes have a reputation of behaving with similar self-righteousness and bitterness.  Rather than feasting and celebrating with others different from ourselves, we wait outside, quick with bitter condemnation and slow to compassionate understanding.  I’m guilty.   Finding the right balance of truth and grace can be tricky.  Perhaps compassion is key?

 

For that brings us to the father.  He waits with unfailing love and compassion.

 

Rather than wait for his son to walk up to the house, the compassionate father runs out to embrace him:

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

 

This part of the story is a cultural surprise.  Normally, a father would have waited to be addressed by the son and to receive some indication of respect before responding.  I picture a king of sorts waving his royal scepter as a signal of permission for the plebeian to approach.  In this case, the father’s compassion is exceptional. He is full of joy and abandons all sense of cultural decorum.

 

Most of all, here is how God awaits the return of a sinner.  Yep!  This is an inside peek at God’s heart.  This is unfettered joy when the lost is found.  His love is unfailing.

 

This reminds me of a story shared by Max Lucado:

 

When I was seven, I ran away from home. I’d had enough of my father’s rules–I could make it on my own, thank you very much! I didn’t go far.  At the end of the alley I remembered I was hungry, so I went back home.

Did my dad know of my insurrection? Fathers usually do. Was I still his son? Apparently so. If you’d asked my father, “Mr. Lucado, your son says he has no need of a father. Do you still consider him your son?”  What do you think my dad would have said?  I don’t have to guess at his answer.  His commitment to me was greater than my commitment to him. 

 

Our Heavenly Father is ever waiting.  Unlike forgetful mothers, He does not forget about His children on the “steps.”  On the contrary:

 

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

 

Friend, with out-stretched hands and a heart of forgiveness and compassion our Heavenly Father watches and waits for us.  His commitment to us is greater than ours to Him.  Do you hear His gentle, wordless whisper?  Why wait?  Come home.

 

Abba Father, my Papa God of unfailing love and compassion,  You’re ever patiently waiting for me to surrender my will to Yours.  You never force.  You simply wait.  Here I am, Lord, ready to exchange rags for Your riches, bitterness for your joy.  Happy and relieved to be home with You…

  4 comments for “How do you wait… patiently, joyfully?

  1. Denice Cain
    March 27, 2017 at 9:07 am

    I loved that Carmen. Thank you! I especially love knowing that God’s commitment to me is greater than my commitment to him. Praise God!

    • March 27, 2017 at 10:06 am

      Absolutely! Praise God, indeed! Thanks for the encouragement, Denise.:)

  2. Lynne Taylor
    March 29, 2017 at 6:31 am

    Oh Carmen! That was so so good! Thank you! I have a CD of Ruth Graham speaking about this very thing – called The Prodigal. Heard her give this message several years ago. Her husband had an affair and she was angry that he got all the attention when he repented, but no one paid her any mind. Then she got into a bad marriage and had to flee… she said she didn’t know what grace was until she pulled up the driveway to Billy Graham’s home not knowing if he would scold her or welcome her for her bad choices, and there he stood, arms opened wide. She said at that moment, she knew she was the Prodigal and she knew what grace was. Makes me cry writing about it and I have listened to it over and over. You just put the icing on the cake for me today! Thank you!

    • March 29, 2017 at 7:05 am

      Yay! Thanks so much for sharing, Lynne! He’s a Good God… may we become more like Him in His grace.

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