Welcome to the Waiting with Purpose Book Club! We’re reading Waiting with Purpose by Jeannie Ewing.
Waiting is the worst. And my personal experience with waiting? It is not so much that waiting delays me or doesn’t immediately satisfy me. I don’t like waiting because the waiting I have been doing hurts. It is physically, emotionally, and spiritually painful, not to mention scary. And I am not a fan of pain or being afraid.
I began to read Jeannie Ewing’s book, Waiting with Purpose, while waiting for my daughter at the dentist. I thought that was clever of myself. Jeannie has done some incredible digging and unpacking on the topic of waiting, mapping out all of the flavors and varieties of this thing we all hate to do but cannot avoid doing. From desert waiting to active and passive waiting, Jeannie’s insight and knowledge helped me to identify my own waiting; to give it a name, call it for what it is, and best of all, to better understand its divine and eternal purpose.
Yes. Its purpose. Because believe it or not, like it or not … there is one.
I know we all know that God wastes nothing. I know we all know that everything has a purpose and that God will use everything for good. But knowing and feeling are two very different things. And it is the feelings I have in my own seasons of waiting that chip away at me; increasing fear and doubt, even causing anger and letdown towards this God who says He will not leave me alone in my waiting, but yet, appears to be gone. Jeannie assured me, and assures all of us, that during this time of “obscure faith” there is still much to expect. That even when God seems to be asleep on the job, we have reason to be joyful.
…we must not become disturbed when God chooses to sleep and remain still for a time in our lives. Our doubt only signifies our lack of obscure faith. We mustn’t wonder why God seems absent. Instead, we should thank Him for such a gift as waiting can be, because we know it is a call to a deeper, more ardent and authentic faith that isn’t satisfied with what our senses perceive alone. In time, Jesus will come. He will hasten to bring us the desires of our heart. We must only remain faithful to the Church, to prayer, and to doing all in the midst of our desert experience with joy, and earnest expectation.
Two things here jumped off of the page and stabbed me in the heart. A good kind of stabbing. The first? “When God chooses to sleep and remain still.” Ashamed to admit this, but I just always pictured Jesus falling asleep by accident. Or maybe not by accident, but not with such specific intention. Like my husband on the couch when we sit down to watch TV, and two minutes into the program I look over and he is out cold, still holding onto the remote in one hand. That kind of falling asleep. But Jeannie points out that God chooses to sleep. He chooses to remain still. And so His disappearing act must serve us some sort of purpose. Right?
The second thing to jump off and stab me? “With joy.” This word joy was like God taking his finger and poking directly at the worst bruise on the most tender part of my arm. Ouch. My husband likes to point out that when I am waiting in fear and in doubt — basically marinating in my lack of obscure faith — I am “miserable.” I take great offense to this, because truly, what women wants to be perceived as miserable, whether she is waiting or not? But maybe this comment stings so much, not only because it is not at all the way I want people to see me, especially my beloved husband, but more so, because it is not at all the way I want people to see my faith. Or lack thereof. What a gift, then, how Jeannie’s words and beautiful truths are spoken out of such love, pointing all of us in the right direction, helping those of us who are waiting in fear and disappointment to see otherwise.
Jeannie’s solid understanding of all kinds of waiting is impressive and enlightening, but her chapters are not merely pages filled with definitions and explanations. In fact, my favorite paragraphs are the ones where she draws us to Scripture and the beautiful women (and men, too … but I have a passion for women of faith) who demonstrate the beauty and significance of waiting. For example, when Jeannie walks us through active waiting, she leads us to Mary and Elizabeth, and brings us right into their story, smack in the middle of their anticipation. Jeannie reminds us of how Mary went “in haste” to her cousin, not so much because she was eager to avoid the ladies and the gossip at the water cooler, so to speak, but perhaps more so because she understood the beauty of waiting in community.
Once the Blessed Mother reached her cousin’s home, Elizabeth greeted her with the beloved words we hear each Advent: “Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (see Luke 1:45). By waiting for a time in community with each other, both Mary and Elizabeth affirmed each other in their expectant joy. They encouraged each other “that something was happening that was worth waiting for.”
Oh, how I love this!
Waiting with Purpose is the kind of book that no matter what your current season of waiting looks like, it will speak to it. Whether you are waiting joyfully or fearfully, lacking faith or oozing it, Jeannie will not only touch upon it, but pull you deeper into understanding it. And I think this is so important. It is not enough for me to simply recognize that what God is asking me to wait for right now makes me afraid. Knowing I am afraid does not make me unafraid, nor does it make the unknown any more known. But giving my fear a name, bringing to light how God is going to use it, and drawing biblical and saintly examples … the many examples … from Moses to Saint Monica … to encourage me to persevere, this is how Jeannie gets us reaching for the hope that is waiting there, at what we feel like is the end of our rope. She manages to shift the focus from, “I am afraid of what waits for me at the end of this waiting … if there is an end to this waiting,” to “there is a gift in all of this, I know … please Lord, help me to see that gift.”
I know. Gift? In the waiting? In the dark, lonely, miserable (my husband’s word, not mine) waiting? Yes. As Jeannie points out, even in the vast unknown … there we find the gift.
And that’s the gift we have in waiting. It’s the preparation for our hearts to be steady, vigilant, yet prudent. We neither hurry nor become stagnant, but there is a cadence of moving forward that keeps us going, despite the setbacks or mysteries, or perhaps in spite of the joyful promise we await. Our steps are revealed, one by one, neither too many too soon, nor too little too late. For God is the “lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (see Psalm 119:105).
As it works with gifts, Jeannie reminds us there will be fruits. Praise be to God … because I don’t know about you, but being reminded that God is working on us, in us and through us, whether we feel it or not, and that there will be fruits –prizes!! — not only at the end, but during the race — sometimes I just really, really need that to motivate me and keep me alive in the waiting that I swear, wants to choke and kill me. Jeannie calls us to Galatians 5:22-23, recalling the fruits of the Holy Spirit, that I should know by heart, but often forget one or two.
These, dear friends, should be our beacon when we do not understand what God is doing to us or why. When we wait, we must believe without reservation that our fidelity will eventuate in some, if not all, of these spiritual fruits.
And you know? I think that right there is everything. “When we do not understand what God is doing to us or why.” Because we want everything to make sense, don’t we? And our waiting is no exception. I have been waiting for years for a healing and a breakthrough in my own personal life. And every time I have a breakdown that I am convinced is the breakthrough, I find that there is yet … more waiting. And I have to be honest. I hate it. I am sick of it. But at the core of it all? I do not understand it. Jeannie’s words have taken my confusion and lack of understanding, and opened up a channel of grace; one in which I can hear God’s whisper in my ear, speaking directly to my heart, saying “trust me. I got this. Remember…I chose this for you. Receive it will joy.”
I want to receive this whisper into a heart of flesh, a heart that believes that His promise will be fulfilled. I am a major work in progress. I am great at trusting in God and the waiting He gifts me with when it actually looks and feels like a gift … the kind that comes in a pale-blue box tied with a white ribbon. How grateful I am that Jeannie points out how essential trusting is.
This is why the aspect of trust is so crucial to our waiting experience: because abandonment to God’s providence requires our will to shift from we want immediately to seeing the current moment as our ultimate gift from God…the longer we wait on God to fulfill what He has already begun in us, the more appreciative we are when the moment of completion arrives.
Since reading Waiting With Purpose, I have found myself pulling out Jeannie’s quotes and words throughout my day; like little seeds of encouragement, I am planting them in the recesses of my heart. And yes, as it goes, when we plant…we wait. And at the moment, I am okay with that. Because you know, there has got to be the point in my faith walk when I am able to pray “I accept all” and actually, truthfully, mean it. And not just mean it … not just accept it … but to live it out with joy. To understand that God chose this cross of suffering for me, and to trust that it has purpose.
As I worked my way through chapter after chapter, it became very clear to me that I will never be able to live out my passion faithfully, I will never be able to say that I wait with purpose, if I do not change the miserable attitude I approach it with. When I pray daily, “thy will be done” do I really mean it? When I celebrate the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, can I say that I have truly entered into his Passion and that I am worthy to celebrate? Jeannie spoke right to the desire for my will, straight to my “run from the passion” response, with this:
We cannot begin to do God’s will until we allow ourselves to be at His disposal, often through the “handing over” from others, perhaps our mistakes and failures. This is the crux of what it means to surrender, or rather, to fully abandon ourselves to God’s loving providence. In passive waiting, when we long for resurrection yet must endure the pain of purification, we await without explanation and without end in sight what God permits to befall us.
And so my friends, we wait. We all wait. But how we wait is another story. And might I suggest you do not wait to pick up Waiting With Purpose. Allow Jeannie to help define your waiting, and to remind you why God asks you to wait in the first place. Let her chapters wake you up to the community, sisters and friends who wait with you, who speak truth and life into your weary, waiting heart. Let her biblical examples remind you that God wastes nothing and will not leave you alone. Ever.
Your waiting, my waiting? It has eternal purpose. And as Jeannie reminds us, “the longer we wait, the greater the blessing.”
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- Are you in a season of waiting? Is God’s presence visible, or do you feel like he has fallen asleep on the job?
- What is your attitude towards waiting when it involves suffering? Have you ever considered that your cross was chosen by God? Are you able to reflect on the gift of waiting and the fruits it will produce?
- Jeannie encourages us to not only wait with God, but to “wait with others.” Who are the people in your life you can run to “in haste”? Who are the friends God has placed in your life, specifically for those seasons of waiting that do not make sense, that hurt to the core, that decrease your trust? Keep these people close, allowing them to point you to the purpose in your waiting.
Feel free to comment on your own impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.
Copyright 2018 Laura Mary Phelps