The author of this honorable mention selection from our Lenten writing contest has requested to remain anonymous.
We hope you are encouraged by this truth: the LORD shows up.
“I waited patiently for the LORD.”
Patiently. A laughable description, and an adverb rarely used about even my best actions. My constant state of edginess suggested maybe a slight edit would make the verse a more accurate reflection of my life.
“I waited for the LORD.”
After all, the writer of Psalm 40 ascribes patience to the waiting, but the author of Psalm 130 seems more realistic when he leaves out that detail. So why should I, a 21st-century frazzled working mother and no Hebrew poet, impose the higher standard of patience? Waiting itself should be sufficient. Yet, even after removing the pesky willingness to endure, something about the phrase still rang untrue. More begged to be deleted.
And there it was – the fully edited, honest version of how I lived my life. Not patiently, not even waiting. I had simply become my own god and, as such, lorded my thoughts and desires over everyone around me.
Waiting for the Lord to fill those wants seemed like an utter waste of time. My recurring antiphon was something more akin to “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” so I sought control of the blessings I would receive. As lord and master of my life, I could arrange the aspects of my career to best fit what I enjoyed doing by referring to those things as gifts from my Creator. I could convince and cajole the people in my congregation to worship, give, budget, and plan in the ways that I determined best for the Kingdom of God. I could badger and ridicule my husband and children into being people that I was proud to call my own flesh and blood. I could manipulate, gossip, rant, and belittle, all for the greater good, of course. So I did, with a mighty refrain of “God’s will be done.”
Imagine my shock when the blessings I was sure would be mine did not occur. God’s will had not been done.
Or so it seemed. It turns out that I had misplace a capital letter ‘g’. My will, as my own god, remained unfulfilled and my desired blessings were largely unrealized. But the will of the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – had been done perfectly.
Uncomfortably for me, part of His will was to bless me through my own self-inflicted suffering.
He allowed me, like Jacob of the Old Testament, to be a complete heel, grasping desperately at my brothers and sisters in Christ in order to yank them below me so that I received positions of honor. To win the favor of those I respected, I stirred up an appealing concoction of my best attributes in hopes of persuading them that I was worthy of their returned admiration. I covered my sins with false acts and words of piety, thinking I would fool not only those around me, but my Father. I was flailing about in disbelief.
As I struggled in the darkness against a mire of my own making, I failed to realize I wasn’t the only one there. God was with me. He was the One who wrestled me into that place. He never removed His Word from me. Day in and day out it was spoken in my presence.
Attendance to preaching and the reading of the Scriptures is inked into my daily schedule as a church worker. Even so, I failed to hold fast to Christ. Instead, I fell prey to Satan’s oldest trick, the one he used to tempt both Eve and Jesus. I listened to God’s word with alterations and deletions. At best, I simply let my mind wander during daily Matins, staff devotions, family prayers, and the Divine Service. At worst, I used the time to fixate on the faults of those standing in the same holy space hearing and speaking the Gospel. I revised God’s Word to include only that which validated my own truth.
God would not, however, let my edits stand. There is more to the first verse of Psalm 40. It continues, “He inclined to me and heard my cry.” As I blubbered over the loss of selfish blessings, the Holy Spirit worked on my defeated heart to reveal that God had been inclined to me all along – inclined upon the cross for the forgiveness of each and every one of the sins I had committed against Him and those whom I should love.
So I returned to the first half of the verse and waited patiently for the Lord. He showed up about eleven minutes late in the vessel of my apologetic and overbooked pastor. I held fast to the promise that the Lord would not despise my broken and contrite heart and spoke aloud the painful truth of my sins. My pastor laid his hands upon my head and spoke aloud an even greater truth: “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”