"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
July 27, 2011
I think that God is trying to get my attention and tell me something! I haven't been able to get away from the topic of waiting and patience, so will continue on that same subject this week, and possibly on into next week. Perhaps you don't struggle in these areas and I'm writing these devotionals for my own benefit. If that is so, perhaps you'll need to exercise patience until God releases me to write about something different. It seems as if every time I think I'm doing a little better in waiting or having more patience, something will happen to make me realize that I still have a long way to go.
The longest waiting period I've ever had was when I was single for so many years. During that time, I would have pity parties at times and feel sorry for myself. It seemed as if I was never going to meet the right guy, and that perhaps God didn't want me to marry. And honestly, unless you've walked in my shoes, it's hard to comprehend. A woman that got married in her teens or early twenties doesn't understand what it's like for a woman to age and mature and be alone and feel like no man is ever going to fall in love with her. And having them come up to you and tell you, "Just be patient; the right man will come along," is one of those eye-rolling, bite your tongue moments. You think, "What could you possibly know about it?! You've been married for years and have your husband and kids!" You begin to doubt your self-worth and the future seems to stretch endlessly before you. Attending weddings and seeing other people falling in love and having families is very difficult; especially when you have people coming up asking when you're going to get married or why you haven't got married yet. I understood that often they were teasing, but as the years passed by, it wasn't funny anymore. After a while it's hard to laugh and make jokes about it, when your heart is hurting and you desire to be a wife. I was 38 when Jon and I met, and I honestly had given up on marriage. I thought that for whatever reason, God must have wanted me to stay single, so I was trying to be acceptive of that and enjoy my life. But then God brought Jon and me together, and we got married two weeks before my 40th birthday.
Two things have happened: First of all, now that Jon and I are married and I look back over that waiting period and those years of being alone and single, it doesn't seem nearly as long as it did when I was living them. Partly because during that time, I didn't know what God had in store for me. I didn't know whether or not I would get married. I didn't know if I would ever become a wife and marry a Godly man. God didn't give me this big vision where I knew if I just waited patiently that I would one day be married. I didn't know what the future held for me. For all I knew, I was destined to remain single for the rest of my life. So all I could do was live my life and try to enjoy it to the fullest and make peace with being single. But there were lots of times when life seemed empty and extremely lonely. The thought of spending the rest of my life as a single woman was often depressing and heart-breaking. I desired to be married, but it wasn't as if men were lined up at my door asking me out on dates. It was hard when my sisters and I would get together and they would laugh and talk about activities they did with their families, places they went with their husbands, and funny stories about their kids. I would often feel left out. I would think, "So is this how the rest of my life is going to be; sitting on the outside looking in?" Even though family and friends included me in activities, it was hard to not feel like an outsider or third-wheel at times. But once Jon and I got married, something happened. I had waited patiently for God to send the right man in my life. And I say "waited patiently" because I had made up my mind that if I ever married I wanted it to be the man that God had for me. I didn't want to marry for the sake of getting married. I didn't want to compromise my beliefs just to find a husband, then end up in a bad or unhappy marriage. I determined in my heart that either God would bring the right man into my life, or I would choose to remain single. Perhaps a better wording would be that I waited steadfast and unshakable, unwillingly to date for the sake of dating or being paired with someone who I knew wasn't right for me. I was often accused of being too picky. I would think, "What do you mean by 'too picky'? There are no good, single men around to be picky about!"
God gave me a desire of my heart when Jon and I got married. Those years of waiting were over and my patience in holding out for the right spouse paid off. It felt as if we had known each other forever. After six short years of marriage and 1 1/2 years of dating, it's hard to think of a time when we weren't part of each others lives. God brought us together, and the wait was well worth it. We cherish our time together and don't dwell on the previous years before we met. Not that we have pushed those years out of our minds or have no good memories of that time, but our lives are now so intertwined together that we feel as if we've been a part of one another's life much longer than we have been. We know that God created us for one another, and it's as if we we've always somehow known one another and been a part of the others life. We are definitely kindred spirits: like-minded, in harmony, in tune with one another, of one mind, compatible. Not that we don't have our own opinions or ideas, or that we always are in complete agreement; but our hearts are in unity with one another.
When God created Eve, Adam said, "This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (Genesis 2:23, 24) Jon and I feel that connection with one another. It's as if God took a rib from Jon's side to create me, just as He created Eve from a rib from Adam's side. We feel as if we've become one flesh and God created us specifically to be joined together as husband and wife. I'm thankful for that close connection we feel, and I'm so grateful that we both waited for God to bring us together. Perhaps marriage didn't come as early as we would have liked, but it happened in God's perfect timing. I can't explain or understand that completely or why we were older when we met and married, but I accept it.
Another thing that happened due to the waiting period: I have been able to encourage and inspire other older single women who are waiting to meet their perfect mate and get married. I know women in their 30's and 40's who want to be a wife and are feeling the same emotions that I felt during those years of waiting. Seeing that God placed such a wonderful man in my life, and watching Jon and I together has encouraged them to have hope that God will one day bless them with a special husband. I know from experience that when a married woman (especially someone who went straight from living with her parents to getting married, at a young age -- meaning younger than 30) tries to give advice and encouragement to a mature, single woman, you think, "You have absolutely no idea!" Honestly, you just kind of want to smack them up beside the head -- in a christian sort of way, of course! It's easier taking advice and hearing words of encouragement from someone you know has walked in your shoes and has felt those same doubts and emotions that you're feeling. When I've had opportunities to speak with frustrated single women who are feeling lonely, they know that I speak from personal experience and that I truly do understand how they feel. God can take your situation and use it to benefit and help others.
Each of us have areas where we've had to wait or be patient, and what you've been through very likely is an area that I have no experience in and therefore wouldn't be qualified to help others who deal with those same type of issues. There are couples who desire to become parents and spend years waiting before finally conceiving and bearing a child. Individuals have had to deal with a health crisis and spent time waiting for test results or waiting to learn whether or not chemo or treatments were successful. Parents have had to patiently wait and pray for wayward children to come back to God; feeling helpless, uncertain about what to do, wondering when to help, or questioning whether or not you've said and done the right things. Life offers so many different circumstances that requires patience and waiting. But even though it may be tough, and sometimes even hard to discuss with others, God can use our situations to encourage and help others who are feeling alone and facing similar difficulties. We can offer hope as we speak from past experience. We can't be all things to all people at all times. We may not always have the knowledge or experience to know how best to speak to someone going through a tough or frustrating situation, but God can send those qualified to do so. It's okay to allow others to offer encouragement and it not always having to be us to do so. But even when we don't understand and don't have the right words, we can pray for God to be with that individual or family. And we can pray that He will send someone to speak to them. And when we have opportunities to encourage others from our past situations to be willing to do so.
If we grow weary of waiting and decide to take matters into our own hands, we can miss out on some of God's greatest blessings for our life. It may not be so much that bad things happen or we are punished for our decisions, but we end up with second-best and not receiving the very best that God has for us. By not waiting on God's timing, we may end up going through life with things being just tolerable or settling for "good enough", but we never truly experience the ultimate blessings that God would like to give us.
The thing is, even when we grow tired of waiting, decide that perhaps God needs a little help, take our situation into our own hands, and end up making a mess of things, we can still repent and allow God to get our lives back on track.
Abraham is a perfect example of this. God promised Abraham that a heir would come from his own body, and that his descendents would be as numerous as the stars. Abraham believed that it would happen as God declared. But as years went by and Abraham and Sarah became older and older, they grew weary of waiting and began to come up with a plan in order to "help" God. Sarah gave her maid, Hagar, to Abraham as a second wife, thinking perhaps this would be the answer to Abraham having a heir, since she had been unable to bear children. Hagar conceived and began to despise Sarah. Abraham gave Sarah permission to deal with Hagar as she wished, and she dealt harshly with her, and Hagar ran away. But the Angel of the Lord found Hagar and told her to go back and submit herself to Sarah, and her descendents would be greatly multiplied. Hagar bore Abraham a son and called him Ishmael. Abraham was 86 years old when this son was born.
Again God appeared to Abraham when he was 99 years old and made a covenant with him, promising that Sarah would conceived and bear him a son. Abraham responded as all of us would. He laughed! "Shall a child be born to a man who is 100 years old? And shall Sarah, who is 90 years old, bear a child?" Abraham reminded God of Ishmael, but God responded that no, Sarah would bear him a son. God spoke to Abraham and said, "My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year." Sure enough, what seemed totally impossible happened. The long wait was over, and God fulfilled His word. (Genesis chapters 15-21)
So while waiting is hard, regardless of your situation, God can make something good come of it. Sometimes we have to just stop and say, "Okay God, I don't know why this is happening or why I'm having to wait so long for you to answer my prayer, but I choose to believe that You have something good in store for me at the end of this." And at times we need to stop focusing on the problem or situation. Focus on God and focus on doing something good for someone else. Rest in the Lord and know that He really is working on our behalf.
I like to teach. Right now, I'm teaching Loretta patience. I usually do each week. I read over the newsletter she's written, check for punctuation and grammar. I grew up speaking Okie, so my grammar might not be perfect, but between Okie and Missouri, I figure we get closer to proper English than just one of us would use. Then, I mull over what to write. Usually, I end up writing something related to what Loretta wrote. But I almost always write it at the last minute. It's good for Loretta. It teaches her patience. But that's not why I do it.
Mostly, I wait for inspiration which sometimes comes, and sometimes doesn't. But it's also that I have trouble making commitments early. I like to wait as long as I can so I can have as much information as possible before diving in. I'm constantly second- and third-guessing myself. Until I decide. But once I've decided, and it's too late to go back, I'm fine with it, right, wrong, or indifferent.
About the only decision I didn't second-guess was deciding to marry Loretta. I knew I wanted to grow old with her long before I asked her. I put off asking her so I could meet her father, but as soon as I met him, and got his permission, I asked Loretta.
I hadn't waited quite as long as Loretta, but I also got impatient waiting for a wife. I gave up and figured I wasn't going to get married. I guess that's why I felt relaxed enough with Loretta that I was able to meet her in the first place.
I think she would be shocked about that last part. For the first few months, I barely managed to talk with her at all. But that was actually very relaxed for me.
I guess I had to just let go before God would give me the wife I'd been looking for for decades. Jesus said to "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God." (Matthew 6:33) But I was seeking a life I dreamed of first instead.
(This was something that was served with many of the meals Jon had while in Brazil. He came back wanting me to make them.
We experimented and pretty much had it figured out, but also found a Brazilian recipe online that confirmed that we were on the right track. This is extremely easy and very, very good!
In Brazil, the bananas were served as a dessert or side dish)
Banana Frita -- Fried Banana
1 Tbsp. Butter
4 Tbsp. Sugar
1 Tbsp. Cinnamon
Peel the bananas and cut them in half lengthwise. Heat the butter in a non-stick frying pan. Add the bananas and fry them on both sides until golden brown; remove from pan and put on a plate. (I've also cut the bananas on a diagonal into 1-inch chunks and cooked them that way.) Mix cinnamon and sugar together and sprinkle bananas with the mixture, to taste. If you wish, you can add honey and raisins to the bananas when frying them (never tried this because we don't care for raisins). Fried bananas go well with vanilla (or any other flavor) ice cream (we sliced them up in chunks and served on top of the ice cream -- very, very yummy!) These are also very good served alone as a simple dessert. We also cooked these on the grill and they turned out very good. You can also just sprinkle with cinnamon and leave the sugar off, if you prefer. I also dipped them in cinnamon and sugar, then broiled them in the oven for a couple minutes until the sugar began to caramelize. Every way we've fixed them have all been really good.
Church ladies with typewriters.... before spell checkers were available. These sentences (with all the bloopers) actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services:
*The fasting and prayer conference includes meals.
*The sermon this morning: 'Jesus Walks on the Water.' The sermon tonight: 'Searching for Jesus.'
*Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
*Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say "Hell" to someone who doesn't care much about you.
*Don't let worry kill you off -- let the church help.
*The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
*Potluck supper at 5:00 PM -- prayer and medication to follow.
*The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. James 1:3
We love you!
Loretta & Jon