Today I have been challenged by the waiting times in my life. Back in the 1970s when I was serving at sea there were times we sailed from a port without knowing where we were headed, other than the somewhat vague instruction of ‘Lands End for orders.’ This generally meant that the owners or charterers did not have a cargo for the ship. I guess we could have waited in port accruing port charges and allowing the crew to spend all their wages ‘up the road.’ But we didn’t. We headed back out to sea ready to divert to wherever we were required next. The waiting wasn’t always easy to tolerate. A ship at sea is not a comfortable platform when the weather doesn’t play ball. There is also the frustration of wanting to know where the next port will be, and if it is a decent place for a run ashore. Being at sea in those days also meant being out of contact with loved ones. Being laid up in a good port was definitely a better option.
Waiting is part of the process of change that God has ordained for every follower of Jesus. How we spend the waiting is up to us. We could settle down ‘in port’ and become comfortable to the extent that we don’t hear God when He calls. At sea the waiting for orders meant the radio officer spending his watches listening out for the ship’s call sign in Morse code to indicate that there was a message for us with new orders. Sometimes the waiting went on for days and we might pass Lands End and steam slowly towards the Azores still waiting for orders.
For the disciples of Jesus the waiting immediately after the ascension was different. They were told to stay in Jerusalem and spend time in prayer and worship. I often wonder about their levels of anticipation, and whether they really understood what was coming their way. I wonder what might come my way if I spend my waiting times in similar fashion. Put simply the challenge of waiting on God means time spent quietly in His presence listening with a sense of acute anticipation, even if days go by without an answer. When I reflect as I have done this morning I am overcome by the realisation that God is working harder than me at this relationship. It is not a question of letting go the ropes and heading out to sea for orders, but of waiting patiently and using the waiting time effectively to grow in my relationship with Him. Then who knows where He might send me.
“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49 NIV)
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4 NIV)