Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Indonesia update #2: Waiting & watching

This morning I was asked by one of the WR Indonesia staff to lead their weekly devotional time. I haven't led anything remotely similar to a devotional in what feels like forever, so I was slightly intimidated - plus I'm in another country, leading in what is everyone else's second language, so it's not wonder I didn't feel comfortable doing it! But after a quick prayer of 'help me!', I opened randomly to Luke 12.35-48, which begins:

"Be dressed & ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes & knocks they can immediately open the door for him."

Here in Indonesia, as in many other countries, there is a strong culture of service. It is common for people to have hired hlep, whether to come & clean every other day or to live with them, cook meals, do the laundry, clean the house, etc. At the entrance to apartment buildings, government offices, & even mosques I see men waiting to open doors, direct parking & even help carry bags if needed. They are constantly poised, ready & waiting for the moment they are called into service.

Without romanticizing these men (& women), their actions and position point to a tangible expression of Jesus' words about watchfulness and readiness, raising questions in my mind about my own posture. I am not one to wait patiently or eagerly; in fact, I rather dislike waiting. I was thinking earlier in this trip that choosing to wait involves facing my worries and fears about the future: if I wait, will I miss an important or exciting opportunity? Will I look back on my life and regret not taking action? What if waiting means being alone? What if my waiting is just a hesitancy to act, out of fear that I'll make the wrong move? These fears overwhelm and paralyze me at times; this past weekend was no exception!

But here and in other places the Bible instructs me to wait, to rest, to trust. To watch and be ready for action, not to run myself ragged with action. Isaiah 30.15 says, "In repentence and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, 'No, we will flee on horses.' Therefor you will flee! You said, 'We will ride off on swift horses.' Therefore your pursuers will be swift!" Then, Psalm 130 and 131 mention waiting, watching, and resting: "I wait for the Lord, my sould waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. ...I have silled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me."

I came to Indonesia with a lot weighing on my heart, many plans I wanted to make and decisions to think through. But all I've read and heard so far this week has been about waiting, watching, and listening. Preparing myself for action, not acting. It seems so counterintuitive sometimes, especially when I consider how little time we have and how many injustices there are in the world - certainly it's better to act than not act, no? According to this passage of Scripture, though, it seems like waiting is more important, especially considering what the next two verses: "It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress hemiself to serve, will have them recline at his table and will come and wait on them." The award for waiting and watching is service from and fellowship with Jesus! How humbling.

(In all of this, I don't want to convey that waiting = inaction, or sitting around doing nothing. Consider the rest of Luke 12 (verses 42-46): "The Lord answered, 'Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers." Yikes! Clearly, waiting does not involve wasting the time or responsibilities we've been given, or abusing our 'freedom' (from the master's watchful eye).

Finally, I close with the last verse in this passage, verse 48: "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." How do I know what's been entrusted to me, or what to do with what I've been given? I can fill my life with lots of activity, chasing after the 'right' action, or I can wait and watch for God's leading, trusting that he will lead me where he wants me in his time. That sounds a bit self-righteous as I write it, so I'll end with a few questions: how do you practice waiting and watching? Is it as difficult for you as it is for me? What does it mean to you to be 'dressed and ready for service'? I asked these questions of the staff this morning and had some interesting discussion as a result, so I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

Thanks again for reading another long post. To be continued!

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