Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Wait Problem: A Mexican Standoff


 
 
Disclaimer: If you haven’t  already done so...you may want to read Part 1 (My Wait Problem) of this blog series before you dive into reading Part 2.  It’ll probably make more sense.  Or you could just be a rebel and read this one first. I don’t care...suit yourself, you crazy nut job.  
Do you know what I think of when I think about waiting?  Checkout lines...I think about checkout lines.

A little fun fact about Alissa: I have a spiritual gift for choosing the absolute slowest line in any given store.  Seriously...every time.  I’ve even tried to fool myself by picking the line that I wasn’t going to initially pick...thinking that I could somehow psych my line-picking-instinct out and end up in the faster line. Never works. I have the uncanny ability to get in the line with underage checkers (for adult beverage purchases), slow checkers, checkers-in-training, broken checkers, chatty checkers...or, the piece de resistance...getting behind the lady with a binder full of coupons.  Ohhhhh yeah. Talk about a prime opportunity to learn about waiting.  Stand in line behind a binder full of coupons as the “beep, beep, beep” slowly erodes your last remaining nerve.  Then, invariably, the coupon lady glances at me with a chagrined “sorry about this” look...and I just shrug as if to say, “Not your fault, Coupon Lady...my line-picker is broken.”   
Think about it.  Our days are marked by waiting.  It’s everywhere.  From standing in a checkout line to standing next to a gravesite...everything around us is filled with the tension of delayed fulfillment.  And if I’ve learned one thing from my own broken-down story, it’s this: how we respond to this tension will define our faith...whether we are aware of it or not.  

I used to believe waiting was just a Divine test to see how long I could hold my breath during a Mexican standoff.  (I’ve actually employed the “breath-holding” technique when standing behind coupon lady in the checkout line. It’s not recommended). Seriously...I thought waiting was just a big, ‘ol dramatic deadlock between me and my longings.  Whoever takes the first shot...loses. And when my lungs started to burn and my trigger finger started to shake, I’d call upon the promise found in Isaiah 40:31 “...they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”  This sweet Scripture would always fill my lungs with just enough oxygen to continue holding my breath. 
 
For years, this belief system worked for me.  Everyone knows I like a good challenge.  Besides, the tension of waiting felt less powerful when I was holding a loaded gun to the forehead of my deepest desires.  That way if I began to feel them trying to claw their way to the surface again...I had the option of pulling the trigger. 
But the fundamental problem with this belief system...is if you hold your breath for too long, you’ll eventually pass out.  And in a Mexican Standoff, if you pull the trigger on your opponent, you’ll end up killing yourself too.  

For almost 20 years, I have been holding my breath for marriage.   No, not just marriage...I have been holding my breath for love (Eros).  Companionship. Someone to bear witness to my life.  Someone to share the burden. Someone to hold my hand.  This is not easy for me to admit. Everybody knows I’m 37 and single, so it should be a foregone conclusion that I want to get married, right?  Sure.  But I’m not talking about a “want.”  I’m talking about a bone-deep, agonizing, life-altering longing that clings to me day and night.  And I spend almost all of my daily allotment of emotional energy trying to convince the world (and myself) that this longing hasn’t ravaged my heart.  It’s hard enough to wade through the constant tension of an unfulfilled longing...it’s exhausting having to pretend I’m not devastated about it.

I know this will scandalize all the feminists reading this, but I truly believe women are designed to be help-mates.  We’re not created to be alone.  I believe we’re more than capable of living independently from a “mate”...but, in doing so, it goes against our purpose.  And, as a single woman who has learned how to live independently very well, I have never been able to shake the feeling that my “best” day of being a single woman can’t even compare to bad day of being a help-mate in a committed marriage.  I know all the exhausted, disillusioned married folks may disagree with me.  I’ve seen how some of you long for my single lifestyle. It probably looks like a vacation.  But perpetual vacation is a mirage.  Being single is really, really hard work.  And it feels like work that has been inflicted on me...rather than something I have chosen for myself. 
So, how does a woman survive a life where her very purpose is denied her?  Where the tension of waiting is so ingrained that she has weaved it into the very fabric of her belief system?  How does a woman hold her breath for over 20 years without causing extensive damage? 

Short answer?  She doesn't.  Keep reading...

Our story is a series of life-altering events.  Some of these events are huge and obnoxious. They manifest as death, illness, divorce or EF5 tornadoes.  Others are like pebbles in our shoes...constant irritants that still have the power to alter our walk of faith.  Either way, our hearts are ravaged.  But life doesn’t stop.  Bills still need to be paid.  People still need us to function.  So, inevitably, we begin to rebuild our defenses brick-by-brick...belief-by-belief...decision-by-decision...until we figure out how to live with the tension of surviving down here.
I think my diminishing faith in the God of the Universe is a result of years of faulty brick-laying.  At some point in my life, I decided to believe that if I stood in the street long enough...and called upon God often enough (when my longings dared to move or my lungs started to burn) then, eventually, He would reward my “waiting” by giving me the desires of my heart.  Brick-by-brick, decision-by-decision my faith eroded and my anger grew.

You see, I had a deadline on this whole waiting thing.  A girl can only be a badass for so long.  Eventually my arms got tired.  I started feeling entitled to the desires of my heart.  And when that happened...I began living like a victim of my circumstances.  I even use words like “inflicted” to describe my singleness.  But even worse? When I live my whole life trying to be a badass, I impose the same standards on everybody else.  So, when they fail to win the standoff in their own lives...I use it as self-righteous fuel to keep pointing my gun at my own longings.  The result is that I become like the priest Asaph in Psalms 73, “when my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in the heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.”  And, come to find out, brutish and ignorant beasts don’t deal well with the tension of waiting.    
In the last few months, as my ambivalence has forced me to take a long-hard look at myself, the Spirit has taught me that waiting isn’t a Mexican standoff...it’s a bloody, dangerous shootout. And as it turns out...the enemy is NOT my longings.  Oh no, my longings are the good guys.  They're hungry and itchy, yes...but they're also a beacon of light...connecting me to the Lover of my Soul.  The true enemy is the Father of Lies.  And he has heavy artillery pointed right at my heart.  As I’ve deluded myself into thinking I was a badass, a steady stream of flaming lies have been raining down on me with deadly accuracy.  And because of those wounds, I lost my faith in the one thing that could save me...TRUTH. 

See, here’s the thing.  We are all waiting for something.  Every single person reading this blog feels the tension of delayed fulfillment.  Sometimes that feels like an annoying pebble in our shoes...sometimes it feels like our skin is melting off our body.  But the true heart-saving question becomes...do we have enough faith to allow ourselves to just feel?  Feel the tension of unfulfilled longing?  Do we have enough faith to put down our bricks and weapons and just...wait? 
Our story is more than just a series of life-altering events.  Our story is a battlefield of life-altering decisions. Over and over again.  Day in and day out.  Moment by moment. We decide who we’re going to believe. 

Imagine this: you're standing perfectly still as the enemy charges straight at you...gun raised...screaming how much he hates you.  His eyes are wild.  His hands are bloody.  His only goal is to maim and destroy you.  He’s coming closer and closer.  Do you feel the tension?  Is your trigger finger trembling?  Are you afraid?  Good.  Now imagine the God of the Universe draws near and whispers in your ear, “Wait.”  (Exodus 14:14)
Decision time.  Do you hold your breath?  Do you draw your weapon? Do you pick up another brick?  Or do you choose to wait...believing with every trembling nerve in your body that the God of the Universe has promised to intervene? 

I have learned that waiting and faith are two sides of the same coin. The more I feed my faith...the more the tension ebbs.  And as I wait for the desire of my heart...to be loved and chosen by a man (or to finally get in a fast-moving check out line), I will be inundated with many opportunities to feel the tension of the bloody battle for my heart.  I can choose to be a brutish and ignorant beast who has relinquished her shield of faith.  Or I can choose to be a Princess Badass, dressed in the full armor of God...holding perfectly still.

1 comment:

  1. Peter 2008 Michigan road tripJuly 11, 2014 at 3:36 AM

    I still love your writing and wrestling to follow FATHER. I agree, waiting is hard. Reading your writing ministers to me. Thank you for writing as you wrestle with how to wait. Though my situation is different reading these last two posts just ministered to me.

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