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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Always Waiting for What Comes Next

For the last week, this article (Single and Not Waiting) has been circulating on Facebook. It's been posted by several of my teen and young adult friends, and at least once by one of their parents. (Kudos to that parent, btw. It's a brave venture in this climate to publically encourage a young person to live his or her life now, even if that means embracing being unattached.)

I didn't read it at first because I thought it was the same article I had read a few years ago and shared with some friends in that age bracket. But just this morning I decided to look at it and found that this one was, indeed, new, but essentially saying the same thing. A young adult feels she is putting her present life on hold, waiting for God to deliver to her the man who will be her husband, and then, her life can begin. She feels "in between" places in life, and that feels like a static place to be. And the author is addressing how this perspective means she is not using her current days as well as she could be.

I've taken recently the advice of my own pastor in several areas of life in which my mindset is creating a false reality. "Rebecca, you have to change the way you think about that," he says. "Thinking that way isn't going to do you any good." He consistently offers an optimistic alternative, but I have to take it and apply it myself. It's advice that reaches broadly into many areas of life's challenges, and I think the author of this article has realized it fits her current situation too.

But what I wanted to say to her, and to my young adult friends, and to probably most of you who take the time to read, is that the "waiting for what's next" mindset isn't just affecting young single people. I'm in my 40s now. And, as I've said to several of you young adults, it's not just marriage that you're waiting for, so that life can begin.

It's an ongoing thing. Even now, I still find myself wondering when it's all going to REALLY start. Life is insanely busy, but I still have that sense of waiting for what's next. For the really important stuff. For the "what I'm really here for" part to make itself clear.

Just yesterday, as I was doing various tasks about the house, editing an article here, scrolling through other news stories there, doing what my hand found to do, I had the same thoughts turning in my mind. About a month ago, I withdrew from my second graduate school class. At the time, I thought I should also withdraw completely from the program. I was at a stage of defeat and felt that by walking away from the class I could not complete well through distance learning, I was also walking away from the entire program, the degree, the future in teaching that I had hoped to have. So yesterday, I was wondering, "What next?" I had that same sense of waiting: If only I could get that degree, that education, then I could do what God wants me to do with my life. Then I could be where he wants me to be.

I wasn't looking at today. I have work. Important work. I have family. Steadfast brothers, amazing children. I have friends. Delightful friends. I have a church community.  I have a neighborhood. I have a readership. And I still have that longing for finding what's next, so that the next stage can get started.

It doesn't go away.

Then I read the article, and realized that two years later, here's another author saying the same thing I forwarded to friends back then, and it's still current and applicable enough to go viral. So the issue hasn't been solved, and I asked the question, "Why?"

Usually, at the root of our most disruptive longings, there is an idolatry, and at the root of the idolatry, there is a truth planted, and I believe it's the same thing in this case--for the teen waiting to graduate from high school; for the single adults waiting to get married (whether it's the first time, or holding onto hope for a redemptive second); for the married waiting to own a house or find the perfect job; for the couple waiting to just have that first baby; for the sick waiting to be healed; for the adult waiting to get that degree or promotion, or whatever.

And the truth we all share is that none of us have fully arrived.

But that's not bad news. It may seem that way, but it isn't. Because there's a deeper truth even yet: We WILL. "He who began a good work in you WILL SEE IT TO COMPLETION."

It's a promise, from the Promise Keeper Himself. We are works in progress, and we know that much. What we don't know, or can't seem to remember, is that it already began. Think about it. How does Genesis start: In the beginning, God. . . .  Ephesians 1: He chose us in him before the foundation of the world. 

You have already begun. The beginning was recorded. This is it. The present, the now, you are in it. This is your life. This is my life. We who are created and chosen are being equipped for every good work in the now, not just for the later.

Yes, there is waiting. Waiting for what's already prepared to come next, but that waiting shouldn't be a burden to the now. And it should not paralyze. That's a tool of the enemy--paralysis. We have life more abundant at this very moment, for those who have been freed from the fear of ever being lost again from the Creator/Father/Author of our existence.

Come out, then. Be real. God walks with us through the very days we have now. Maybe all those things we are waiting for will come to pass for us, but whether they do or not, we each have purpose right now. Keep doing the work he's given you to do today. Keep gathering together. Keep encouraging one another, as long as it is called today. Keep your eyes open for the wounded on the side of the road, for the thirsty, for the orphans and widows, for even the rich young ruler who went away sad--maybe his waiting time has not yet come to completion and perhaps your path will intersect to help him along his way. If there is a person in your reach, you can be sure you are not placed there accidentally.

One of the potentially paralyzing tenets of the single-but-waiting-for-The-One mindset has been to cloister oneself from anything but superficial community while waiting. It is presented as a type of emotional "purity" even if it has nothing sexual associated with it. (Amazing to me, in my generation, how we were taught to abstain from sexual immorality, but today's Christian generation, even if they've held that line well, are given the new burden of trying to discern an emotional immorality to carry as well. Its definition varies greatly from one to another, as a new doctrine not fully worked out among its proponents, but within that range, I've known several truly well-intentioned young adults finding themselves laden with false guilt over fears of caring for the people God put in his or her path now, because if they let themselves invest emotion, it might conflict with that which belonsg exclusively instead to some unknown individual who may materialize years down the road. Does not God tell us he owns the future, and that divination is a lack of trust in him?) It's tied closely to this idea of putting all of oneself on hold for one singular goal: marriage. It's not consistent with the picture of the community both Paul (in Ephesians and Philippians) and Peter (in 1 Peter) promote for a church--individuals united in Christ, truly knowing one another with hearts purified by God's word, and seeking to abound more and more in knowledge and discernment about how to love one another better, genuinely, from the heart.

The opportunities are there, today, no matter what else we think we are waiting for--as long as we go with him into those opportunities.

Can we open our arms, our hearts, ourselves (like the doves spread on the altar) to not just accept with grumbling but embrace with confidence the very moment of today and our lives in it as they are, while we also wait with confidence for the completion that is to come? Can we live to own the promise in the present?

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