The hardest part of seeking God’s voice in our lives is often what the elders gathered with Aaron beneath Moses as he climbs the mountain experience – waiting. While Moses goes up to the mountain top, they sit and wait. Wait for the words of life. Wait for the vision of a new kind of community God will deliver.
I’ve been there, before, waiting. Sometimes I still am. I remember waiting for God’s answer about what I should do for my life. I remember waiting for God to show me who my spouse should be. I remember waiting for God to open the door for work. I still wait on God’s guidance for many things.
Later on in the story of Israel, we discover that Israel cannot yet manage the waiting in a holy way. We often think of waiting as passive, but holy things work through us if we turn our times of waiting into times of exploration. Waiting can be a time where we examine our hearts for those broken places in need of healing and those defects of character in need of improving. We can ready ourselves for our next step. Waiting can be doing the good before us in this moment instead of waiting until the better opens up. It can become being present in this moment, with all of its uncertainty, being present to others and ourselves. It can become doing the service to others, the work of creativity that builds beauty, here in the place we are here.
This is why Jeremiah told Israel as it was in exile in Babylon to go ahead and plant trees and gardens, build homes, start families, while they waited for deliverance. In their waiting they still can build beauty, create goodness, and help shape their world in beautiful ways.
Most scholars tell us it is through that time of waiting that the many scattered stories, texts, laws, songs, and other scraps of inspiration that were later woven together in the Hebrew Scriptures that make up the Bible of Judaism and the first half of Christian Scriptures began to be gathered together. What wonderful work and inspiration for today came out of this time of waiting!
Yet Israel while waiting for the revelation from God from the mountain falters, failing in their work of waiting. We read on that they demand an answer before waiting has done its work, a revelation without preparation. So they create gold calves and a god of their own imagining. They nearly break the covenant, the promise of relationship God gave them when God called them out of Egypt. Yet God, through the prayers of Moses, does not give up on them.
We are given the example here not to rush our times of waiting. Instead we are called to trust the process, to be open to what is possible in this moment. To trust that it is transforming us into the people we need to become to be ready when our answers come down. Truly if we participate with the work God is doing us in this time of waiting the answers will flow naturally when they come.
What answers are you waiting on? What might being faithful to this process of preparation we call “waiting” look like for you?
And sure ain’t whistling Dixie,
Your progressive redneck preacher,