Expecting (no, I’m not pregnant)

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

Psalm 5:3

 

On Monday morning, after the safe delivery of my kids to school and before I started my errands, I paused for a moment of prayer. I sat on the lonely end of the loveseat in our living room where no one usually sits because of the poor angle it affords to anyone trying to watch television. I closed my eyes, and spread out my hands—palms up—ready to catch any blessings that might fall from the heavens.

 

I said, “Lord, today the parliament in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is set to return from their summer break. According to rumor, they’re supposed to approve the laws already written that will lift the suspension that has prevented us from bringing Ezra home. As you will no doubt remember, it has been just shy of twelve months since this suspension was put in place. We are ready for action. Brent and I have decided to pray boldly, to expect you to listen and act. We’re begging for your intervention. We need to see you in this. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 

As soon as I had finished, the phone rang. My breath caught in my chest and my hands grew cold. As I walked to grab the cordless in the kitchen, I calculated the time in Congo. Could it be? Is this the embassy calling to tell me we can go and get him? Impressive turn-around time, Lord!

 

Imagine my disappointment when I realized it was the dentist office, calling to confirm the kids’ appointments for their cleanings the next day. Now, I’m not one to tell the Lord how to do his job (For who can know the mind of God?), but that would’ve been pretty cool.

 

Recently, a friend told me how much she admired our family’s waiting during these years of trying to rescue our African son. I mumbled some words of humble gratitude in reply, but what I really wanted to say was “what choice do we have?” Waiting is our only option. Later, I considered the truth of waiting. It seems like the most passive way to spend your time, but there’s more to it. When all the facts point to God’s dormancy, He’s still spinning the planets and granting favor to us in ways we don’t realize or acknowledge him for.

 

Last Friday, a new friend poured out the story of her son’s drowning, coma, and resurrection just outside our workout gym. She didn’t know about our adoption struggle but God does and he sent her to tell me that God is listening. She told me that saying “if only…” limits my belief in his power. As soon as I got home, our neighbor called me to her backyard to tell me that she and her husband will soon celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary. She told me, “God is faithful, through the good times and the bad. He’s always there.” The next day, a salesperson at the hardware store asked Brent if he knew Jesus. The elderly man told Brent he had tried to kill himself three times but God had miraculously prevented him from dying every time. He said God was real and powerful and he wants to bless us.

 

Granted, we live in the South, and there are churches on every corner but the undiluted presentation of these testimonies had to be the result of God’s faithfulness. He knew we were worried and anxious for news. He sent us these three ambassadors of encouragement because he could read our thoughts and analyze our deepest emotions.

 

Our modern, western culture works against us when it comes to waiting. There was a time, not so long ago, when a wife or mother would send her husband or son off on a voyage that would take months or even years to complete. Often, all of that time would be spent without knowing anything. No letters, no phone calls, not even a fax. Now we have no patience for having to wait. Our desire for immediate gratification has created a slew of problems but my biggest is what to do with this downtime. When was the last time you stood in a line? Try not looking at your phone and see how awkward you feel. What do I do with my hands? Careful with the people-watching, stalker! Okay, now I’m so bored, I’m getting sleepy. It’s ridiculous.

 

So I’m challenging myself to spend this “waiting room time” praying expectantly. When I read James 1:6, 7: “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord,” I was kind of like “Shut up, James…” but then I started to see his point. If my faith is wholly dependent on favorably answered prayers, then it’s not faith at all. It’s a hypothesis being measured in columns of YES and NO. I don’t want a business relationship with the All-Mighty where I send in a grocery list and he sends it back with the requested goods. If that was my intention, I’d worship at Target.

 

After so many ups and downs, I question why we are called to pray expectantly. Does God delight in watching us get our hopes up only to see them crash to the floor in a million pieces? Surely not. That isn’t the way he is depicted in the Scriptures. There I see a Father who wants good for his children. He’s just and firm, but he’s also compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness. This is the Lord I serve. He is the One who knows all and sees all. And I will pray expectantly (and humbly) for a 3-year old boy in an orphanage in the Congo to be allowed to come home.

Community

I’m always amazed to look up in the sky and see a large hawk attempting to escape from his scrawny songbird tormentors. (If you’re not aware of this natural phenomenon, check out this video.)

The much larger bird of prey is swooping and diving while the mob of crows, mockingbirds, or grackles are pecking its feathers off, dive-bombing it, and even pooping on it. So why does he put up with it and why are they so adamantly pursuing this guy? It comes down to this: one crow is a meal but a half dozen is murder. (Please read the preceding sentence aloud and say murder in a menacing way. There. Wasn’t that satisfying?) A murder is actually what you call a flock of crows, and a murder of crows is a force to be reckoned with. If they can act in concert with each other, they can attack the invading hawk who wants to fly off with their young. They can protect their territory. They can stand up to the bully. They can persuade the seemingly helpless townspeople to sew elaborate costumes and construct traps to defeat the nasty El Guapo and his ruthless bandits…wait, that’s the plot of the movie, Three Amigos, but you get the point. Though weak alone, we are stronger together.

I’m reminded of my communities who make me stronger: my sisters, my best friends from high school, my Bible study group. They bolster me with prayers and words of encouragement. They fast with me, even from chocolate, which is tantamount to martyrdom. They ask how I am…really. I wish I could say I’m good at pulling my end of the rope in the tug of war match that is life, but that’s not always the case. I’m trying to do better. I’m trying to remember to ask about those fears and struggles and big decisions my friends lay before me. I’m trying to set aside my to-do lists and pull out my prayer lists instead.

Being truly invested in another person’s ups and downs is hard. It’s often messy and exhausting. Sometimes, you may dig too deep in a friend’s wound and the pain may push them away. But knowing you’re on the receiving end of prayers and petitions is healing and your hope is they will return.

I’m honored to fly with my fellow crows. God has faithfully assigned some amazing, loyal friends to my flock over the years. Now I pray I can be the community I’m called to be, even if it means pooping on our enemy.