This is the first in a series of reflections on Psalm 130. I'd recommend reading this eight-verse prayer before reading this post.
This psalm invites us to do some deep work in prayer. First there is an invitation to become profoundly aware of what lies at the depths of my soul. This is the place from which I am going to pray. What has fear covered up? What have my daily rhythms, conversations of emptiness, time at work, traffic lights and Instagram scrolling’s shielded me from remembering about the depths of my soul? It usually takes me a second of allowing my thoughts, emotions, and ideas to rise to the surface and become prayers before I realize a common theme, or something that is really going on inside me, whether good or bad. God brings all of this to the surface, in grace. But what I am to do with the depths of me isn’t some scary test God is giving me. Rather it is some thing uncomfortably passive. It is at my depths, where I realize my deficiency, and my continual need for humility and the transformation that comes from the Holy Spirit, that I am to wait. With the deepest part of me, I wait on God.
Waiting is not nonchalance, but it is also not pedantic searching. It is attentiveness to God. It is acquaintance with my own reality and attentiveness to the hand of God at work in it. Waiting on God means that death comes to what I consider transitory. We all live with a certain definition of what a successful life is. Whether it is found in our accomplishments, the way people perceive us, the amount of things we own, how good we feel about ourselves at a given moment, the list goes on. But success in the kingdom of God is a little different. Success is simply partnership with Jesus. Success is love.
I am pretty hard on myself naturally. And at the end of the day, if I feel like I need to judge my productivity, whether I did things of value or not, my judgment renders my day useless more often than it does useful. Recently I felt the Lord invite me to ask myself to simple questions at the end of the day if I’m going to ask myself anything: Did I listen? Did I love? For in these two questions lies the heart of success in the kingdom of God they are not result oriented questions, but motivation oriented. Was I in communion with Jesus? Did I at least have a sense that my actions were tied to his voice? Did I withhold myself from the people around me or try to prop myself up to make myself feel more important than them? If these things did occur, then I simply repent and ask for the grace of God to open my eyes to these moments in the future. But more often than not, I find that as I follow Jesus, these things come more and more naturally to me. Listening and loving. In these two things, I have access to the purpose I so restlessly grasp to feel. In these two things, I find life in God's Kingdom. In these two things, I must wait. I must allow God to be God and myself to be myself, free from external pressures and metrics of success that I impose upon myself.
Listening and loving. In these two things, I have access to the purpose I so restlessly grasp to feel.
I have to ask, then: what are my metrics for success? Maybe this is in the best way to phrase it, it sounds a little too business oriented. But, what are the things that leave me feeling good about how I’ve spent my time, and what are the things that leave me feeling shame about the way I’ve spent my time? Often I think that a successful life can be distilled into landmark moments. The moments that are the most memorable, where I won the award, got the job, moved to a house, became apparent, the list goes on. And while life does tend to pivot around these moments, to discredit all that isn’t a landmark is to refuse to wait on God. If we are allowed to wait on God as the watchmen waits for mourning, then all moments are important. There is no merely transitory moment whose value is only and that it is on the way to another moment.
Two Sides: Moments and Seasons
Waiting on God with an awareness of my need for him, at the depths of my soul, causes me to die to the idea that some moments are just transitory and unimportant. But also, I must die to the idea that I’m the one with the responsibility of making time worthwhile on my own. There are two ways I want to look at what we see as transitory. There are your moments throughout the day: waiting in line at the coffee shop, driving to a friends house, and all that we consider in between. Then, there are waiting seasons. Whether it's a six month stretch between jobs, whether it is the time I am waiting for a pregnancy, these moments have value.
These seasons have value, because there are places in which hope can exist. Pain will exist with hope. That is the way that we live right now. If I change the way that I view success from my old metrics to the "metric" of love, then I find that my idea of transitory moments and seasons has to die. God does not abuse my time. But the most can be made of it, because what Jesus says is what I believe to be true, that he is always with me. He is no less with me in the ordinary, or in the valley, then he is on the mountain top. There is a holiness to both my ups, downs and middle grounds. And this holiness is found and waiting. In the transitory, as I die to my view of it as insignificant, I learn trust. I learn to wait.
And waiting, though it is significantly difficult, and often feels unproductive, is the path to experiencing the intersection of heaven and earth now. It is not opposed to taking action, but it is opposed to imposing myself upon the world in impatience. It is not resignation and fatalism, but it is a surrender of the trust I hold in results. I exchange my result-oriented ways for the motivations of Jesus in waiting. When I’m not waiting, I may still do a lot of things I think are good, but I will do them out fear. And fear leads me to a lonely place: exhaustion. In waiting, I learn to overpower the way of exhaustion, by learning to begin by receiving.