What matters more than age

My son says he is “five-ish.”

He’s actually four and his birthday  is in October, so it’s not that his birthday is coming soon.

He’s simply feeling five, so  this is his new token answer.

“How old are you?”

“I’m five-ish.  I actually look five.  Actually.”

It’s because of a little playground encounter a few weeks ago  with two little boys who became his insta-best-playground  buddies.  They climbed all over the pirate ship together, took turns on the zip line, and then spun in the tire.

Finally, they exchanged names and ages.

That’s when my son realized these other guys were five and they were shorter than he was.  So, therefore, he must look five, or at least “five-ish.”

Maybe it’s the  fact that my baby is trying to age himself or the fact that my girls all finished off another  school year and are off to bigger, higher grade levels, like finishing up middle school of all things–maybe it’s me nearing 40 and feeling all the weight of what that means and how that  looks on me….

Whatever the reason, age is on my mind.

I’ve been thinking how age is inevitable.   Growing older just happens, even if we’d rather it didn’t.

Maturity, on the other hand, is not guaranteed.

In her book Unseen, Sara Hagerty says it this way

We’ll mature without effort into  wrinkles  and gray hair, but our hearts won’t mature deep  into God by default.

But what is this maturing, this  growing up  in Jesus?

It doesn’t come by default, so then it must take discipline.  Yes.  Spiritual disciplines.  Digging into  prayer and digging into His Word and serving and listening to the Lord and worshiping.   Yes and yes and yes and again.

It’s not all so  concrete and straightforward, though.  It  isn’t just about studying and reading and knowing what God’s  Word says.

There’s the discipline of repentance and humility.  It’s stumbling our way through living out faith.  It’s getting it  wrong, humbly confessing that and asking Jesus to  renew, revive, refresh and redeem.

There’s the discipline of weakness, maybe that’s the hardest for me.  When I  am feeling most  dependent on Jesus because I’m not strong enough or capable enough on my own,  I  have to lean.  Leaning can feel like so much brokenness and that’s hard, but it’s also sweet because that is exactly when I know Jesus more.

Failing, messing up, making mistakes, feeling frazzled and overwhelmed:  It’s all my weakness on display, but  I cannot pull away from the hard season, from the difficult or the wearying or the unknown or even what I just haven’t mastered yet.

Christianity isn’t about being perfect; it’s about being transformed.

Then there are the quiet seasons, when life seems to just roll  along day after day, seemingly stagnant, same-old, same-old.

Restless.  I can be so restless.

I want to see big results.  Big change.  Big impact.

Then I read the reminder in Isaiah of how to grow in the discipline of waiting:

but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31 CSB).

I love  this verse in all of the nuances in each translation.

“Those who TRUST in the Lord”  (CSB).

The NIV says “Those who HOPE” and the ESV says “those who WAIT.”

We trust Him.  We hope.  We wait.

The discipline of waiting tucks itself into seasons of quiet and of hiddenness and of not knowing.  It’s about lingering for direction and looking forward to  seeing God at work, but not seeing that work just yet.

When we trust and we hope in Jesus even in the discipline of waiting, we can soar and we can run,  but oh friend,  we can also walk.

Somehow that walking seems  like the greatest feat to me.  Soaring can be exhilarating, running shows great power,  endurance and strength.

But walking takes unique courage.  Walking takes persevering hope.   We’re not seeing leaps of progress, but  we will  not give up.  We aren’t quitting and setting up camp in a land of complacency or dormancy.

We’re being steady,  daily, consistent, steadfast, and faithful.

When the soaring is done and the running is finished and we’re feeling  bone-tired, still  we walk with the Lord today.   Then the next day, we get up and we walk with Him again, and we will not faint nor fail.

I remember that it takes discipline to repent humbly, to fail graciously,  and to wait patiently.   That means I can buck less against what feels uncomfortable or hard and instead embrace what God is doing in me right here and now.   I’m not just arbitrarily aging; I’m maturing in Christ.  Lord, be at work in me.

May we learn to linger

I’m tempted to rush.

On a rare day when I have this time, the temptation is there to fill it right up with more activity, more going and more doing.

Most days, I don’t have this luxury, of course.  It’s the mad morning scramble of toothbrushes, hair brushes, ribbons, bows, socks, shoes, lunches and backpacks to send children out to the bus stop.

Then, zoom into the day with the preschooler and the errands or meetings or Bible studies or appointments or whatever busyness has etched itself onto the schedule.

But this day.  This one day.

After I watch my girls step onto that school bus, I return to my home and breathe in and out this uncertain freedom.  I don’t have to run out the door.  I don’t have to meet an external agenda or deadline right away.

So what to do?

Rush through my home, stuffing laundry into the washing machine and another load in the dryer?  Frantically move cereal bowls from sink to dishwasher and then grab the broom (maybe the mop if I’m inspired).  Respond to messages.  Catch up on the to-do list.  Fill out the forms.

So it goes, me filling up this one little space of time with too much, cramming in activity and sitting on the lid in hopes it will fit.

My tea, poured hot this morning turns cold.

My morning devotions, rushed through just to be done, leave me unfilled, uninspired, unopened to what God wants to say.

Too busy…too busy…just always too busy.

But today I consider Joshua.

Moses met with God face-to-face in a tent.  A pillar of cloud covered the entrance while the Israelites looked on from the flaps of their own tent dwellings, bowing in worship in the doorways.

When Moses finished talking with God, he returned to the camp to share the message with others.

Not Joshua, though.

“his assistant, the young man Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the inside of the tent” (Exodus 33:11 HCSB).

He wouldn’t budge from the glory and the presence, lingering there stubbornly while others moved along.

What if we chose to linger?

Chose to be Joshua refusing to leave the tent as long as God’s glory electrified the air….chose for this one day to be Mary at the feet of Jesus rather than Martha slamming pots in the kitchen?

Because serving perpetually means serving empty and that means dying of spiritual starvation and dehydration.

We need the Mary moments so we can re-enter the kitchen as Martha and care for others cheerfully and ably until we have that opportunity once again to lay down the dish towel and sit at Jesus’ feet.

It’s not practical, of course.

That crowd of more than 5000 who sat on the hillside listening to Jesus hour upon hour should have been watching the clock.  They should have known what time it was and how long they had to travel back for food.  They should have abandoned the sermon and packed up their blankets and lawn chairs at a reasonable time so they could eat dinner at a reasonable hour.

But Jesus rewarded their time in His presence.

Had they left early, they would have missed the miracle.

In order to witness God’s glory, they had to wait, they had to sit patiently and linger there until they received.

In Living Beyond Yourself , Beth Moore writes:

“He placed them in a posture to rest in His provision.  He commanded them to “sit down” and fed only those who were “seated” (vv. 10-11) . . .”Are you ‘sitting down’ in a posture of trust and sitting quietly to receive it?  If so, prepare the baskets!”

For me, it’s just this one day to breathe before a new wave of stress and busyness crashes down again.livingbeyond

For you, it may be a morning, a day….even a season of sitting and waiting on that hillside so you can see His glory, or a season at Jesus’ feet instead of in the kitchen, or a season of lingering in the tent.

Whatever the length of the wait and the stillness, it’s a discipline to rest rather than rush.

When we remain there, though, insistent on lingering where His presence is, we see His glory displayed and He fills us up with the sustenance of His presence and His Word.

Originally published 11/2014

The one thing I need to hear when I’m waiting

psalm 27

I was five minutes early and already nervous.

A friend and I were meeting up so we could drive together to an event.

The plan was simple.  Meet in the parking lot at 5:00.

At 4:55, I started worrying.

Did we say 5:00 or 5:30?  Did I have the time right?  What if we had miscommunicated?  What if I told her the wrong day?  The wrong place?  The wrong time?

This could be a disaster.

By 4:57, I pulled out my phone to double-check our messages.

Okay, I’m safe.  This was the right day and time and place.

But what if she couldn’t see my car where I was parked?  What if she pulls in the other side of the parking lot and misses me completely?

I crane my neck around, glancing from side to side.  Then I actually drive through the parking lot to make sure she wasn’t already there waiting for me and I’m just being ridiculous.

It’s 4:59 now, and yes, I am absolutely being ridiculous, but it’s taken on a humongous snowball life of its own and I feel powerless to stop it.

I am worrying about being late and about traffic and maybe we should have said we should meet earlier.

I am worrying about miscommunication and how I should have called her that day to verify the details one last time.

Then I start worrying about my friend.  What if she is hurt and in a car accident somewhere and she can’t call to tell me because she’s in an ambulance on the way to the hospital?

And then, just as I’ve worked myself up into frantic worry….my friend pulls in.

It’s 5:01.

She’s fine.  I’m fine.  We’re completely on time.

I really am ridiculous.

Every single day, I tell my two-year-old son to ‘be patient’ about 20 times.  Maybe 50 times.

He wants juice.  He wants snack.  He wants Bob the Builder on the TV.  He wants his shoes on.  He wants his shoes off.  He needs help with a toy.  He wants me to read a book.

What do I say?

Okay, in just a moment.  Be patient.

And, I act like he should just accept that.  I act like it’s a perfectly reasonable request for a two-year-old to have patience.

But today, I’m recognizing that it’s hard.

I should teach him patience, of course.  I still need to keep asking him to wait sometimes.  This doesn’t mean I need to snap-to-it and answer his every whim and will immediately.

No, I teach him to ‘be patient,’ but I do it with some understanding that what I’m asking him to do takes oh such a long time to learn.

Some days he’ll get it just right.

And some days he’ll fall to pieces just like his crazy mom does when she’s waiting for a friend in a parking lot at 4:55 p.m. and they’re supposed to meet at 5:00.

There’s something more, too: All these years, I’ve recognized how waiting takes patience (and who likes learning about patience?) and it takes trust (and who finds trusting without controlling easy?).

But it also takes courage.

David wrote:

Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:14 ESV).

and again:

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
    all you who wait for the Lord! (Psalm 31:24 ESV).

I’ve missed it a million times.  I’ve read those Psalms and sang them and written them in my journal over and over again, but today it hits me in a new way.

God says that in the waiting, I need to take heart.

I need to be courageous.

I need to be strong.

And, that’s exactly what I need to hear in seasons of waiting because when I’m waiting, I’m full of doubt and questions and worry.

I think maybe I heard God wrong.  Maybe this is going to take forever and He’s never going to bring me through this situation.  Maybe the deliverance won’t come after all.  Maybe I’m in the wrong place.  Maybe there was miscommunication.  Maybe I missed God and He was already here and gone and now I’m outside of His will!  Maybe God is done with me and now He’s just left me here in this place.

I’m being ridiculous, I know it.

Yet, it’s in the moments of waiting that I feel most abandoned and most afraid.

And it’s in the moments of waiting that God says exactly what I need to hear the most:

Don’t believe the lies.  Don’t fret over the future.  Don’t question the calling.  Don’t doubt God’s ability or willingness to care for you.  Don’t think you’re alone.

Be strong, and let your heart take courage.