I’m not sure where you’re at, but for me this season has felt unending and lacking movement. I find myself asking not just, “What are you doing, Lord?” but also, “Why aren’t you doing anything?” A good friend has articulated recently feeling like God is about to do some big things, but nothing is yet clear and He still seems hidden.
Cue the Christmas story. We imagine it all beginning with Mary with the animals, giving birth to her baby on an itchy pile of hay. But it really begins so much earlier than this, and we learn for ourselves how to pay attention to what God might be doing by looking back at the years leading up to Jesus in the manger.
When we look at Scripture, we flip just one page to transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament, while in reality there are 400 years of silence and space in between the two. 400 years of seemingly nothing from God. No words, no direction, no clarity. And then, suddenly, a baby. This is not the plan that anyone would have imagined. This is not the way we would have pictured God coming out of 400 years of silence. Surely You are preparing something…epic? I’m beginning to realize that I’m believing that God is doing nothing in my life because I have a very specific idea and area of my life where I want and expect Him to be working. And in that area, there is nothing. But if I widen my gaze and look at the whole entirety of my life, I can start to see other areas or ways that God might be present and working in my life and my world. I can, like the witnesses of Jesus coming to earth, begin to understand that in the “silence” and “absence” God is actually creating and planting seeds and kneading dough and all the other metaphors for doing something that will come to fruition. 400 years of silence, and then a baby? Even when we see Him working, what He is doing often makes no sense. Ironically, the thing I wish He would do is to give me a baby, and yet when I widen my gaze where I am seeing Him work is in the vocational arena of my life, developing me as a leader and mentor and gatherer of people. Where I am seeing fruit in my life is in areas beyond where I would maybe choose it to be right now, but He is the Gardener and so where He plants I will tend.
My husband just bought a ridiculous video game where he farms, yes, farms — mowing, planting, watering, fertilizing, collecting. And in between those tasks the player has to sleep, because there is nothing to do but wait. We cannot force growth, we cannot make fruit appear. In the waiting, the deep work is happening. In the dark, seeds are broken open and begin to sprout.
As we begin to wrap up this year, we cannot help but reflect on where we have been. I just sat around a brunch table with dear friends and we all feel discouraged at the lack of “Christmas Card” updates in our lives this year. Really? I’m exactly where I was a year ago? That is all we really have to show for ourselves, now?
Hillsong’s lyrics remind us: “In the darkness we were waiting, without hope, without light. ‘Til from Heaven You came running, there was mercy in Your eyes.” While we wait, He is working.
I know it can be hard to believe that. To wait for any kind of longing in our hearts feels unbearably unfair. And yet, every year we walk into the Advent season and are reminded that our whole lives are about waiting. Mary wasn’t just told one night by an angel that she would give birth to the Savior of the world, and then the next minute it happened. She waited. God waited years, and years, before bringing us our Answer.
No matter where you find yourself right now, surely there is something you are waiting and longing for. Surely it can be hard to sit in the midst of the darkness and uncertainty. I mean, we are all collectively waiting for the end of this horrendous pandemic season, not to mention all our own personal hopes and desires. So the answer isn’t, “just wait, it’ll happen,” but maybe something closer to, “God is working, if only we would have eyes to see.” In the silence and darkness it could be that He is preparing for us something more beautiful than we could ever dream, like welcoming Jesus into our world. I’m hoping and praying that we find this to be true in our everyday lives, as we enter a new year with fresh hope and big dreams. May we trust that even when we do not see it, He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him.