Listening for, and discerning God’s will during vocational and life transitions requires reclaiming the art of waiting – in many ways a lost discipline.
I’ve been in a period of waiting for over a year now, in transition with my work. After producing two documentary films back to back, and five years of international outreach, I needed a break, and to dream again about what God has next for me.
In winding down our outreach activities, I carved out time throughout the weeks to savor the slow pace of cafe life, sipping tea and chatting with carefree, flip-flop clad surfers and serial entrepreneur locals. I cherished long beach walks while mulling over my transitional hopes – developing new project ideas and landing soulful, challenging, well-paid opportunities.
Yet, after six months of this part-time sabbatical, my hopes never flourished. I couldn’t seem to get projects off the ground, partnerships didn’t seem right, and opportunities didn’t abound. Forced to wait for a spring-like season to arrive in it’s right time, the long shadow of winter followed me through my days.
At times, waiting requires facing a vast, empty desert ahead. Thirst parching dry tongues, waiting is often laborious, lonely, and unforgiving. Glimmers of hope, like streams of water, mere mirages, come to tease us, then leave us wanting high and dry on hot sand, as we crawl toward unknown vistas ahead.
Yet, I’ve been reminded, in deserts cacti bloom. Hot pinks and bright yellows dot arid landscapes, as black night skies dance with tiny sparkles of light.
St. John of the Cross wrote, “God is not found in spiritual delights, but in the sensory aridities and detachments referred by the dry and desert land”. He says, “God leads us into a land without a way”. But he reminds us it’s in this desert we find the riches of God’s grace, where we learn to rely on God’s will and promises.
Jesus, tempted by the devil, waited in hunger and thirst for forty days, feeding on the will of God, before venturing onward toward his destiny, a ministry that would change the world.
In the deserts days and the winter season of my waiting, I learned the lessons I most needed: seasons and deserts are God’s gift, created for a purpose. These dry times are God’s offerings to draw close, to abide in the comfort of divine love, to listen for our true callings.
In a contemporary play by Archibald MacLeish, JB, about the story of Job, Job’s wife Sarah speaks encouraging words on the hope of God’s will: “Blow on the coal of the heart. The candles in churches are out. The lights have gone out in the sky. Blow on the coal of the heart, and we’ll see by and by”.
We blow on tiny flames in our souls during these waiting days, lighting aflame the fire of God’s love and promises. It is only here we gain the true strength to carry on.
Those who wait on 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. Isaiah 40:31
The literal translation for word wait is the Hebrew word “קוה” (qavah) meaning to bind together like a cord. It’s in our waiting we weave sturdy ropes of faith, waiting with eagerness for bubbling springs to burst forth in the desert, for God’s call to ring true.
It is in our desert thirst, we drink of living water. Jesus tells the Samaritan woman preparing to bring up water from the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I give will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life”.
He says, “he who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, from within him will flow rivers of living water.”
It’s in being filled with divine grace, we hear the rivers of our soul’s longing, the voice of God’s call, and where we wait for God’s spring to bloom. In her book, Hearing with the Heart, author Debra Farrington says, “we persevere and continue to follow the call we’ve heard with our heart, the light grows and somewhere along the way, we find ourselves exactly where we are suppose to be, doing just what God has called us to do”.
The waiting season is a time for filling our souls with the food of God, the breath of true life. It’s a time to mature, grow in faith, preparing for what God has for us ahead. A baby forms in her mother’s womb for nine months. An olive tree takes thirty years to reach maturity. An acorn becomes a towering oak tree spreading wide it’s branches toward the heavens.
What vocation, what transition can possibly be worthy without incubation, without abiding in our maker?
Jesus says, abide in me and you’ll bear much fruit, for without me you can do nothing. In such seasons of abiding, every branch in us that does not bear fruit will be pruned, so that it may bear more fruit.
As with branches on a vine, buds form, blossoms bloom, when spring comes.
Wait with confidence.