Saturday, January 23, 2010

On Waiting & The Fullfillment of Dreams

When I was in college, I remember reading the love story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. Jim and Elisabeth met at Wheaton College as they were both discerning a call to the mission field. They were desperately in love but uncertain as to whether God would desire that they remain single so that they could more flexibly serve Him. For five years, on and off the mission field, Jim and Elisabeth wrote letters, occasionally saw each other, and waited to discern whether God’s blessing would be present for their marriage. After five years of longing they finally discerned a call to joint service in marriage among a remote tribe of Ecuadorian natives.

I distinctly remember reading this story and then talking to a friend as we drove down Highway 99 back to George Fox University. I said out loud, “What a great and crazy story! I could never do that! I could never wait like that if my heart was so full of emotion, of longing and of love – I could never wait. I am just not cut out for waiting under those circumstances.”

The way I saw it was simple – I am a relator; I engage relationships with my full heart. It wasn’t in me to engage a relationship and then just say, “Well, that’s okay, let’s put it on the back burner and see what happens.”

Fast forward the story of my life ahead five years to the summer of 2007 when a dream of all dreams was coming true for me – Adam Monaghan (whom I had met at age seventeen at a youth conference in Seattle) was with me for a week in my home state of New York. Every day of his visit was more and more incredible and by the end of the week, it was very certain that our hearts were ready to engage this relationship fully, and more intentionally. Our feelings for each other were growing and as we got to the end of the week, excited and hopeful for our future, we decided to do that which was so opposite every feeling and emotion within us. We decided to put everything on hold and wait, not just a week or a month, but for over two years. Our reasons for waiting were right, and they were good, and they honored sound principles and correct judgment, but this decision didn’t make sense at all to my heart.

Like Jim and Elisabeth, Adam and I sparingly wrote cards and letters (lovingly displayed on my wall) through the postal service, and that was it for over two years – the limited contact was intentional, we needed to wait to engage our relationship more fully, to honor God’s fullness of time, God’s right timing. Every letter that Adam sent began with the phrase, “This is crazy!” It was! Not only was it crazy, it was tough, it hurt. I remember after only two months of waiting had passed, a particularly intense moment where I felt like every part of me was about to break apart. How could I do this for two years more? This was exactly what I said that I could never do, and here I was doing it!

And I had to ask the question, “Why?” “Why is this what I am called to do?” And in asking this question, in this moment of abundant need, it became so apparent when, early on in life, I had answered the call of Jesus, “Sarah, do you love me?” and I had said, “Yes,” my “Yes” meant that I loved Him first, that I loved Him more than anything. It hurt, but my “Yes” to Jesus meant that even if I was called to do that which I had said that I could never do, then I was willing to do it.

It was a helpful realization for me to learn that even something as simple as being patient, as simple as waiting, could be an act of spiritual worship. The funny thing is that when I Adam and I started waiting, and every month his letter came and said, “This is crazy!” I would always think, “What is the precedent for this?” “Who else has ever done anything like this?”

It turned out that this was an unreasonable question because when I started looking, I realized that we were only two among a throng of very many people who had answered Jesus’ call, “Do you love me?” said, “Yes” and then heard Jesus beckon and call to a place, to a task, to a summit that was way beyond the realm of normal comfort, way into the realm of craziness. But yet in this call, in the summons, I found something unexpected – there was an emboldening power to cast aside everything that I had been fearful of, everything that I had looked upon and seen as an insurmountable barrier because of my personality and disposition and say to the Lord, “As real as these barriers are, as real as these giants are, I love You more.” This was the story of all the giants of the faith! And I was being so silly as to ask “What is the precedent for doing something crazy? For loving Jesus more than loving normalcy?”

We all have dreams. We have passions that define us, that make us inherently unique, that give us goals and plans. As we move from a season of dreams into a season of conquest and of pursuit, one thing is sure - the fulfillment of our dreams is not handed to us on a silver platter. The process of fulfillment involves much surrender, much patience and much waiting on God.

Why does it all feel so hard? Why are our dreams pressed? Why must we wait? Why must we go through seasons of disappointment? Why must we do that which we always thought impossible?

When we are honest with our times of hardships, our unfilled desires, passions, dreams and yearnings, it allows us to come to Jesus and say, “I love you more. Let the fulfillment of all these dreams be found first in You.”

And that is the very beauty of it. Without the love of God, what is anything else?

Being with Adam is wonderful - a dream come true, if there ever was one! Adam and I are learning to love each other sincerely, deeply, from our hearts, sacrificially. Adam is so good at loving me! He brightens my world with his presence, his hugs, his laugh, his humor, his smile, his romanticism, his great notes, his encouraging words, and his generous thoughtfulness. But even knowing the richness of Adam's love for me, I can say so confidently with the psalmist, "Apart from you, God, I have no good thing."

Yes, it is as Augustine professed, "Our souls are restless, until they find their rest in Thee." Learning this truth is the work of waiting, of surrender, of doing what we thought was impossible. It is so worth it!