If you are familiar with the story of Moses, you’ll remember that he spent his first 40 years in Pharaoh’s household before he fled from Egypt after murdering an Egyptian. And, he spent his last 40 years leading the Israelites through the Wilderness to the Promised Land (also known as the Exodus). But, you might not be aware that when he fled Egypt he ended up in the land of Midian for 40 years where very little is recorded about his life. Compared to his first 40 years in Egypt and his last 40 years leading the Exodus, he spent those middle 40 years “waiting” for God to show up. And God did show up when Moses least expected it in a burning bush, and suddenly his waiting years were over.
Waiting on God is certainly not a new concept and many books have been written on the subject. Our society has become so high-tech and “instantaneous” that we get impatient if we have to wait in line for more than five minutes at the check-out counter or if our “fast food” takes a few minutes to receive at the local fast food restaurant.
I know in my own life waiting has never been an easy thing. And after two years and three months of “waiting” for a new job to show up (this is not a passive waiting as I am actively applying for jobs), I find myself saying, “Okay God, what’s the hold-up?” No, waiting is not something I do well. But after reading accounts like Moses and Joseph (see previous post), my time of “waiting” seems microscopic compared to theirs. You can probably relate to what I’m saying.
So, I’m waiting in Midian, so to speak, and hoping my wait doesn’t take 40 years. I received a comment from a dear friend mentioning that she felt such pain and hurt along with my own empty feelings from reading my blog posts. It made me realize that words on a blog don’t often totally express the whole picture, and I was grateful for her comment so that I can emphasize another side. And yes, there is another side.
Without a doubt these past three years, starting at the end of September 2008 when I moved to Houston, have been filled with pain and hurt as well as loneliness. And, this long time of unemployment has left me socially isolated as I don’t even have work colleagues to communicate with on a daily basis. Also, I’m single and I live alone which adds to the isolation. But throughout these past three years I have maintained, on a very regular basis, an upbeat attitude and enjoy getting out and talking with people wherever I find them. However, I think we do ourselves a disservice when we try to hide our pain behind a “positive mental attitude” which negates (even denies) looking at situations realistically when things go wrong as stated in my previous post, “A Matter of Clarity.” One doesn’t have to read very far into the Bible to note that it wasn’t “positive thinking” that got Moses or David or Joseph in the Old Testament or the Disciples or Paul in the New Testament through their many trials and ordeals. It was not denying the devastating circumstances they found themselves in through “positive thinking,” but a total reliance upon God through “positive living” in the midst of those circumstances and trials.
“Positive living” is a term I picked up from a book by Dr. Michael Youssef, “15 Secrets to a Wonderful Life: Mastering the Art of Positive Living” (FaithWords, 2008). In the Introduction titled “Positive Thinking or Positive Living?” Dr. Youssef states, “While reading and rereading 2 Corinthians, I grew convinced that there was a vast difference between “positive thinking” and “positive living.” I realized Paul did not practice ‘the power of positive thinking.’ He was a man who lived a positive life despite all the negative circumstances surrounding him, including opposition, setbacks, and suffering. I desperately wanted to learn Paul’s secrets of positive living.” Well, so did I! So I purchased the book and read it this summer. From his study of 2 Corinthians in chapters titled, “Giving and Receiving Forgiveness,” “Overcoming Timidity,” “Mastering the Art of Peacemaking,” “Sorrow: The Back Door to Happiness” “Being Appreciated,” “When Pride is Good,” just to name a few of the 15 chapters, he shares what he has learned from the writings and life of the apostle Paul. I highly recommend it and only wish I had read it three years ago.
I do want to express that many good things have come from these past three years of some of the most excruciatingly painful trials I have ever experienced. Starting with my painful job experience in Houston and through this long time of unemployment, I came to the bottom of myself and found Jesus there waiting for me. I got away from all the “positive thinking” stuff that has invaded many of our churches that simply does not work when the bottom truly falls out of our lives (can I get a witness?) and also hides the sin in our lives. I have been on a journey where I have learned more about life and living through God’s perspective (re: daily reading the Bible and praying and I can’t emphasize enough the importance of repentence), then I ever learned in all my previous years of being a Christian. However, this post is already too long to go into all the positive changes that have blossomed in my life through this desert experience. I’ll save it for later.
My blog posts up to this point tell just part of the story of what has happened to me over these past few years. I do think we need to take an honest look at ourselves and not deny the pain, hurt, or emptiness that invades all of our lives that the “positive thinking” approach doesn’t allow for and, in fact, tells us to deny. That is not to say we should stay in a funk and not move forward out of it. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As I continue to “wait in Midian” for a future to unfold that I don’t know about yet, I don’t want you to think I’m bemoaning my plight or sitting all day with the shades drawn. Are you kidding me? Nothing could be further from the truth! I just need to remember that sometimes the best things or greatest time of usefulness in life come after a very long time of waiting. So if you’re currently experiencing a long time of waiting, remind yourself of that, too.
Photo credit here