Melissa is a friend of mine who is now on the other side of a longer-than-expected answer from God.  She and her husband prayerfully navigated the red tape and bureaucratic hoops to qualify to be adoptive parents. Shaped by tender hearts for unwanted children and already blessed with a son of their own, Melissa and Daniel had come to the strategic decision to adopt the rest of their children.  Here was a ‘good’ prayer, not a ‘self-serving’ prayer, a prayer in line with God’s will as James tells us:

James 1:27 NIV

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Once qualified by the adoption agency, Melissa and Daniel projected dates of baby # 2’s arrival. In August of 2010, they told us, “Most likely by Christmas, we’ll have our baby and Lucas will be 2 1/ 4 years old, a good age spread.”

But Christmas came and went. Several sets of their friends got pregnant with ‘Baby # 2’.  Melissa started to blog about the wait.  Said friends delivered ‘babies # 2’.  Other families on the waiting list were selected ahead of Melissa & Dan.  Our church prayed.  Melissa set a good example:  transparently sharing her disappointment but keeping on in the faith.  She set physical goals such as weight loss and running races.  Spiritual goals nurtured her wait; read through the Bible in 3 months – twice!!  “Okay, God, now I see why you have delayed our baby’s arrival, but the calendar is clear, now would be a good time!”

Not only did Melissa and Daniel have to deal with the surprising wait, they suffered disappointments too.  I don’t know how many ‘heads up’ calls or emails they received about different babies whose birth parents were considering them.  The emotional roller-coaster took its toll, almost hardening Melissa to want to not let her hopes be dashed again.

Then God surprised them with 2 sudden and newsworthy events: #1 – a call about a baby who had already been born and was to be assigned to them and  # 2 –  the news that they themselves were going to be birth parents again!  Not a scenario they would EVER have imagined!  But isn’t that just like our God!!

I’m sure Melissa has learned a lot about ‘The God of Continual Surprises’ – would that be ‘Jehovah-Hafta’ah’? (Looking up the Hebrew word I read that one yells out “hafta’ah” at a surprise party) 

What I have come to realize more profoundly praying and waiting with her and her husband is that “Waiting is a form of Worship”.  I first heard this concept at a weekend retreat about 4 years ago.  The speaker was still waiting for a grown daughter to be rescued from the Kingdom of Homosexual Darkness. During her talks she chronicled many of the lessons she had learned so far.

Not all waiting is worship-ful.  Obviously there is the anxious, nail-biting sort that the world has perfected.  This is actually more the norm than we might realize.  ‘First-world’ countries like ours and others in the West have perfected the cult of ‘now-ism’. We expect life (other people, weather and technology) to perform according to our expectations and meet our schedules.

Obviously God knew that anxiety would be a temptation.  Jesus commands us in Matthew 6:25 – “Do not worry…….”  Since this is more than a suggestion from God, we can’t ignore the sinful nature of worry and anxiety, qualities that stain much of our restless waiting.

So what transforms waiting into a worshipful gift to God?  Obviously our attitude makes the difference. I love to dig around language roots.  I’ve found that both the Hebrew and the Spanish translations of the word ‘to wait’ have the built-in meaning ‘to hope’.

As Christians, we know that God’s definition of ‘to hope’ means to know for a fact.  Our faith is not wishful thinking as in, ‘I hope it won’t rain tomorrow for the picnic’.  No, our faith is based on the assurance, the pledge and promise of a sure outcome. Remember then……. ‘Faith is being sure of what we hope for, certain of what we don’t yet see’ (Hebrews 11:1)

We don’t wait in a vacuum, unattached to reality.  We’re pinning all our hopes (NOT on the circumstances working out according to our plan and desires, but) on God’s promises which are based on his character.  God CANNOT lie, or else he wouldn’t be God.  So if He says something, it’s as good as money in the bank.  And when we take him at his word and actually lean into, relax, rest on that promise of future grace, we show not only the world of other believers and non-believers, we are broadcasting to the spirit-world as well.

I have a theory about the frustrating exhortation in Matthew 5 about letting our light shine (vs 16) – “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Super George the pagan (i.e. non-believer) lives next door to us.  As an excellent neighbor, George is often doing for others.  But no one thinks to glorify and bless God for George’s kindnesses.  We admire George!  So the verse can’t refer to helping others, plenty of non-Christians do those compassionate works.  Here’s what I think:  if we go back to Jesus’ answer to the frustrated Jewish crowd in John – Chapter 6 (‘But what must we DO to be doing the work of the Lord’), Jesus responds by telling the people that the work they are to do is to BELIEVE GOD.  Can’t you just hear them responding incredulously, “That’s it?  There’s got to be more than that!!!”

Sounds so simple, but it’s countercultural. And here is how Melissa and Dan lived out that countercultural message for the past two years.

Melissa’s response to the unreasonable and painful wait for Levi, her now-2-month-old baby boy, was to continue to trust God, even when she did not understand the reason for it.  Her example has demonstrated for us a lovely way we can honor God and create opportunities to tell others about God’s promises.

When we don’t angst, fret, stew, manipulate, throw a tantrum, demand our way, we show the world that whereas we don’t LIKE the circumstances, we are trusting God’s promise to:

-work out all things for our good (Romans 8:28)

-withhold no good thing (Ps 37)

-be our shepherd and provide all we need so we won’t want for anything (Ps 23)

-faithfully tend to us with new mercies and compassions while we wait (Lam 3)

Our calm response in the waiting will definitely glorify our Father in heaven, because we will be demonstrating without language that God IS real, personal and all-satisfying.  And when we calmly wait, faces turned toward God, we reflect His light, like the moon reflecting the sun.  This then is ‘letting your light shine before men’ in a way that points to God.

Finally, how can we pray for each other in future periods of waiting that inevitably will come?  More than just beseeching God to grant the ‘whatever’ to our friends, how about praying Colossians 1:11 – that they be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that they may have great endurance and patience…. ultimately glorifying God.