Waiting rooms. Special, dreary places that serve only one purpose: to wait in. I don’t like waiting rooms — never have, never will! Who does? In waiting rooms, there isn’t much else you can do except…wait. Particularly when you’re in a waiting room to see a doctor or dentist. While it’s bad enough to have to wait to be seen when it’s for yourself, it can be much worse when you’re there for someone you love, like your kids or your spouse.
As an adult, I’ve been in the waiting room several times before with my kids, but only once or twice for myself. The most recent experience in a waiting room was in early June of this year when I had my appendix removed. There’s nothing like being stuck in a waiting room when you’re in a lot of pain and just sitting there, waiting to be seen by someone (or even anyone!). Thankfully, that waiting didn’t last long and before I knew it, I was waking up in the post-op room.
The worst part about waiting rooms is — well, the waiting part. Growing up, I remember spending a lot of time in waiting rooms when we were little because my mother has had epilepsy for most of her life. She’s been to countless doctors, had her medication and diet tweaked and changed and everything else over the years. My brothers and I read a lot of those Highlights magazines when we were wee lads and played those cheap pocket-games she would carry in her purse to keep us busy, or at least from getting too bored which would inevitably lead to trouble.
Though the last year has been full of upheavals for me both personally and professionally, one of the most challenging aspects of it was all the waiting that couldn’t be avoided or diminished. While I tend to shy away from leadership positions, I usually have a no-holds barred attitude about most things. In my mind, once a decision has been made, it’s time to execute on that decision, not wait around. When we decide to start a new project or take a new user-story at work, it’s time to jump on it and git ‘er done! In my mind, waiting after a decision has been made and there’s work to be done is about the same as just wasting time — because it is!
Yet that’s been what much of the last year has been about — waiting. The big decisions have been made but we had wait to act on those decisions. Hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait. Oops! Change of plans! Then back to hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait. At work, many of our tasks are dependent on other teams, so it’s often felt like I’ve been living in one of life’s waiting rooms for the last year or so.
Several months ago I read an interesting book about surviving life’s trials by Max Lucado called “You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times”. Along with having faith and trusting God to get through our various trials, another aspect of life that was addressed in the book was about waiting. Long waiting. Sometimes very long, painful, humiliating periods of waiting.
The book focuses on the life of Joseph, the 11th son of Jacob in the latter portion of Genesis. The coat-of-many-colors Joseph, the boy who dreamed dreams that got him into a lot of trouble, the boy who was thrown into a pit by his brothers and then sold into slavery, the young man who resisted his master’s lusting wife and then was unjustly imprisoned for fleeing her aggressive embraces. The man who was forgotten and left to rot in a dungeon in Egypt. Joseph spent at least five years in that prison until he was released because he was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream about the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine. If there was ever a character in the Bible who should have lost faith after all that had happened to him, surely it was Joseph — but he never did!
At any point in his life, Joseph could have accused God of impropriety. He had been hated, persecuted, betrayed, abandoned, sold, enslaved, falsely accused, imprisoned, and forgotten. Don’t forget that he didn’t know how his story was going to end! Everything had been taken from him — everything except his faith in God. And then one day in that dungeon which began like every other, his waiting ended. In that one day, he was lifted out of that dungeon, exalted, crowned, and honored more than he could’ve ever dreamed. His entire life turned around in the course of about 24 hours, from the prison to the palace. His time in that waiting room in the dungeon — probably the worst type of waiting room imaginable — was finally over.
Yet Joseph’s story doesn’t end there; the real climax is still about ten years away after the Seven Years of Plenty have ended and the Seven Years of Famine are stalking the land. More waiting, waiting to see what God was going to do next. And then on another day that began like every other, he looked up and saw his ten brothers, the same rascals that stole his life away when they sold him into slavery more than twenty years before. He could’ve held quite a grudge against them after all they put him through, but he didn’t — though he did make sport of them. He could’ve become bitter and had them all tortured for the rest of their lives, but he didn’t.
Next to his faith, the most astonishing part of Joseph’s story isn’t his instant rise from prison to palace, but the absence of bitterness in his heart towards his brothers. If anyone had the right to hold a grudge, it was Joseph! But when he saw them, his heart broke and he yearned to be reconciled to them, to forgive them. To make things right between them, even though he had been terribly wronged. Remember what he said after they were reconciled? He told them, “What you intended for evil, God used for good, to save many lives.”
The Hebrew word rendered “intended” in the verse above has a deeper meaning than is communicated in the English. One of the ways the Hebrew word chasab (intended/used) is used is to describe the action of “skilled or cunning work.” Several places in the Bible, chasab describes the long, painstaking, skilled work of weaving or fashioning, as in the context of making the beautiful coverings for the Tabernacle, the intricate metal-work, and also the high-priest’s breastplate. Such work is often long, slow, and tedious, requiring patience, skill, attention to detail, and the end-result constantly in mind as the maker continues working until the “skilled or cunning work” is finished.
Consider another rendering of the verse above (Genesis 50:20): “What you had woven for evil, God has rewoven for good, to save many lives.” Lucado makes much of this idea of God weaving this tapestry of our lives in his book. No one is more skillful, patient, or loving than God. He does not devise evil, but He does often devise how to use evil for good. That unexpected job-loss? He will reweave it for good one day. That nasty divorce? He’ll reweave it for good someday. The terrible loss of a child? Yes, He can even reweave that for good somehow. That’s what the Master Weaver does: He reweaves evil for good.
Like Joseph, we may not be able to see — even for many, many years — the result of God’s reweaving evil for good in our lives. But be assured that He’s not only hard at work
weaving and reweaving evil for good, but also weaving and reweaving the fabric of our lives, our hearts, our character. He not only reweaves the evil that happens to us, but the evil that’s IN us. He constantly has the end-product of us in mind — He sees what He’s remaking us into, even though we can’t. He reweaves us to make us holy, to make us love others much better and deeper than we could ever think possible, and to conform us to Himself.
Whatever you’re going through, hold fast to God — have faith and trust that He is busy working inside you, weaving and reweaving you, refashioning you, refactoring you. Even when it feels like you’ve practically made that waiting room your home, know that God is at work — especially deep inside. Learn to use life’s waiting rooms for your benefit, such as praying more deeply, learning more about God, and drawing closer to Him. Rather than dwelling on all that painful languishing and waiting, let’s learn to trust the Master Weaver like Joseph and look forward to that masterpiece He is reweaving in us.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” — Romans 5:1-5