Have you ever found yourself suddenly filled with emotion in the weirdest moment? Like watching a commercial for cat food, or observing an interaction between two perfect strangers. Out of nowhere you sense the lump in your throat and find yourself pushing the tears away. “Get back in there tear!” This happens to me more than I’d care to admit, but a recent occurrence caught me off guard while I was reading our six-year old son a bedtime story. I’m reading along just fine when I suddenly found myself choked up, struggling to get through the page without my son noticing.
Surely it must have been some heart warming story like The Velveteen Rabbit, right? Nope. Of all things, it was a Dr. Suess book. Oh the Places You’ll Go! You’ve probably read it yourself. My particular copy was a gift from my family when I graduated high school. In all fairness, I would say it’s less of a children’s story book and more of an allegory of the cycle of expectation and disappointment we experience throughout life.
Here’s the page that got me:
You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space headed, I fear, toward a most useless place. The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a yes or no
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
Or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants,
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
No! That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.
The Waiting Place is a season when we feel stuck and stagnant. We feel like we’re floundering and not thriving. The Waiting Place can feel as arbitrary as waiting for the mail to come or your hair to grow ( I feel like I’m always in that place, right ladies?! Chop it. Grow it. Repeat).
You’re waiting but you don’t necessarily know what you’re waiting for. Or why you have to wait. Or how long you’ll have to wait. Will I really somehow “escape all the waiting and staying”? Or will this season last forever? This is the season I’ve been in and this is how I managed to get choked up reading a Dr. Suess book.
As frustrating as it is however, I’m learning that it’s definitely not a useless place. At least it doesn’t have to be. In fact, there are things we learn in the Waiting Place we may never learn anywhere else. Like….patience, for example. When what we want is instantly at our fingertips the minute we desire it, we never learn to wait well and can grow entitled.
There is a difference between enduring a season and waiting patiently. To endure can simply mean undergoing pain or discomfort without giving up. Patience is waiting well. Enduring with a good attitude.
When we find ourselves in the Waiting Place we can endure it and come out the other side unchanged. Or we can patiently lean into the discomfort and frustration and let the pressure transform us.
This song from Brooke Ligertwood says it well:
In the crushing
In the pressing
You are making new wine
In the soil I now surrender
You are breaking new ground
So I yield to You and to Your careful hand
When I trust You I don’t need to understand
Sometimes the crushing and pressing isn’t in the major tragedies or heartbreaks, but the squeeze of daily life or the pressure of waiting patiently. When we see the clouds of a major storm rolling in we tend to gear up and face it with a fortitude and intentionality that we may neglect in the calmer seasons. So often it’s actually the little things that cause us to lose our peace and joy causing us to endure a season rather than thrive in every season.
The daily crushing in which we find ourselves feeling angry, frustrated, sad, jealous, unseen, offended or resentful is an opportunity for growth. Will we give in to those emotions without further examining where they come from? Or will we be intentional in asking ourselves “why am I feeling resentment?” or “what emotion is this anger covering up?” Taking the time to examine these emotions will lead us to a revelation of what God is trying squeeze out of our lives.
We can, for example, learn to live with and manage the jealousy we carry, or we can let God show us where we have our worth wrapped up in something other than who he says we are. Knowing this allows God to dig deep and pull jealousy up from the root. This is how he breaks new ground in our hearts and what allows Him to take us where we’ve never been able to go before. Oh the places you’ll go!
The crushing is what transforms the Waiting Place from a useless place into a season of growth and launchpad for acceleration.
When we find ourselves in the Waiting Place it’s easy to fill our time trying to escape it or mitigate our discomfort with distractions and numbing–like pulling out our cellphones while in the grocery store line. We become so distracted in the midst of it all that we can only see what God was doing in hindsight. But what if you could see what God is doing while you’re in that place?
This is how we find joy in every season.
“When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2-4)
When we begin to look at every situation and circumstance through the lens of what God is working in and through us we can actually begin to embrace trials with joy. He is molding us and shaping us into his image.
The crushing shakes every faulty foundation we’ve built, breaks off false comforts, and drains our broken wells. The result is that we need nothing, because we’ve learned to find everything in Him alone.
This is freedom.
Frustration comes when something stands in the way of what we want. When He becomes our source, supply, and prize in life we’re no longer frustrated by the Waiting Place because what we want, will always be right there with us. Nothing can separate us from His love.
I think the story God is writing for our lives is a little less “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” and a little closer to “Oh the Person You’ll Be!” Although he certainly has places for us to go and plans for our lives (good ones), His greatest plan involves the places He can take our hearts not our feet.