Worth the Wait

 I recently finished the novel 'I Heard the Owl Call My Name' by Margaret Craven.   It was a magnificent book.  In the span of 160 pages, Craven managed to draw me in with subtle nuance and simple writing the way not many authors can.  More modern works of fiction seem to talk a lot, but say very little.  I can think of a handful of best-selling books that hit a thousand pages, but cannot hold my attention past chapter one.  This book was special.

The author writes about a young vicar who is dispatched by his Bishop to a remote Indian village in the Pacific Northwest.   Craven crafts a pitch-perfect montage of what it is like for the young preacher to show up with an American set of expectations, and discover a rich (though often confusing) set of old native American traditions instead.  In this village you see, there are elders who still teach the old ways.  They don't trust the vicar yet.  He represents an intrusion into their way of thinking.  A culture clash is in the works.   

Craven often mentions a feeling of "cautious waiting" that is  present in the indigenous people.  The vicar can see it in their eyes, and hear it on their lips.  He is never quite certain, however, just what they are waiting for.  That reason lies always just out of reach.  Maybe someday they will tell him.  Maybe when they trust him a little more.  

I was astonished as I came to the realization that the author had actually constructed a reading experience that matched this curious notion of 'cautious waiting' that her characters were feeling.  As each chapter unfolded, I found myself both wanting to finish the book in one sitting, but also a bit afraid to discover too much at once.  Almost like it would be cheating to skip ahead too quickly.  As if it would somehow defame the characters in the novel if I learned too much too fast.  

What does it mean  to wait on something like this?  I suspect it happens to many of us in our daily life.  We go one day to the next, never quite sure what is around the corner.  Sometimes fearful ... or at least cautious.  When we are in a position like this, I believe that to wait means that we cannot proceed in any direction until something occurs.  In essence, we are stuck for a period in time.  At least until whatever it is we are waiting on (whatever chapter we are reading through) unfolds such that we can again press forward.  We wait until we are rescued from our holding pattern.

Allow me to illustrate  further with an example from my own life.  Once I was at a family reunion out in the country.  It was beautiful and serene; many places for kids to run and play.  My middle son Gavin was doing just that.  He was maybe four or five years old at the time.  He is bright and energetic, and he was following the older kids around ...  running through the narrow foot trails on the steep side of a hill.  At one point I remember spinning around just in time to see him falling head over heels down the side of the embankment.  I couldn't get to him in time to stop his fall.  It was like watching something in slow motion.  When it was over, he stood back up, seemingly no worse for wear.  We drove him home later that day, not thinking much more about it.

The next day he began vomiting and exhibiting signs of a concussion, so we rushed him to the local E.R.  As anyone who has been to the emergency room knows, sometimes you are forced to wait for hours until you see a doctor.  During this time, my wife and I literally felt 'stuck.'  It was as if time stood still, and everyone in that small hospital room experienced exactly what Margaret Craven was writing about when she spoke of cautious waiting.   Sometimes, you simply aren't allowed to see what lies at the end of the tunnel - at least not in the way you want.  And not in the time frame you would prefer.  

What is it about physical pain and suffering that often brings about character building?  At times like these, I really wish that something else (anything else) would suffice.  But, it appears that God in fact uses these situations to get our attention.  I'm embarrassed to say, sometimes it takes physical pain to get my attention.  

The young vicar in the novel finally gains the trust of his native-American  congregation after suffering alongside them when one of their children passes away.  Craven writes on page 87, "But there was a difference now.  The cautious waiting was over.  That night he wrote to the Bishop and the Bishop's answer affirmed it.  'You suffered with them, and now you are theirs, and nothing will ever be the same again.'"  

We are waiting all the time on this planet.  We wait for a graduation date, or a birthday perhaps.  We wait for a friend or family member to come visit us.  Sometimes we wait for that certain something that we cannot quite put our finger on.  It is a cautious waiting, akin to the feeling you get when you know things aren't right in this world, but you aren't quite sure what will fix it.  In fact, I think we often find ourselves waiting on a savior.   

Isaiah 53 is one of my favorite passages from the Bible.  It shows us what Jesus the savior had to go through for our sake.  Listen to the words from the Old Testament writer as he recounts what the Son of God had to suffer through in order that his flock might come to trust him.  Verse 4 says, "Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed." 

It would appear that much like the young vicar in Craven's novel - we have a friend in God, willing to suffer not only with us, but for us.   He is the Savior that everyone needs, but not everyone has met. 

Eventually the E.R. doctor cleared Gavin that night, and all of us got into the car and headed home.  We were tired, and it was late.  What we had waited on so desperately and needed to hear so vehemently, finally came to pass.  We were told that he would be okay... just keep an eye on him.  We could now move forward as a family and continue living our lives.  That memory of having to wait for hours will be etched in my mind for some time to come.  

Similarly, when we encounter Christ as someone who meets us in the midst of our suffering - as someone who knows first hand what it means to endure and prevail - I think it changes us.  We can allow our cautious waiting to come to an end.  Somewhere deep down in our hearts, a veil of fear has been lifted.  The waiting can stop, and the living can begin.  

In a famous account from the Gospel of John, Jesus meets with a Samaritan woman next to a well.  When she comes to draw water from it, he engages her in conversation.  John 4:13 says this, "... Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."    

When we find God, we are truly found.  The wait is over, and there is no need to go thirsty anymore.  No need to wander aimlessly through life from one day to the next without purpose.  Jesus is the last chapter in a novel dedicated to pointing people to eternal life.  We will no longer be stuck.  We have been cleared by the E.R. doctor; the nightmare is over. 

Gavin is older now, so are all my kids.  I frequently get a kick out of watching him run and play with the other kids.  He has almost no recollection of that day in the  emergency room years ago, and I am grateful for that.  But as he gets older, he will face the same difficulties we all do in life.  My job (so far as I can tell) is to show him that he may suffer sometimes in this world, but he need not suffer alone.  He may be forced to wait on God occasionally, but he will not wait in vain.  And when he is older, I will have a book for him to read.  It's a story about a young vicar who visits a remote village and learns how to live an abundant life in Christ.  I wish this same abundant life for everyone reading this article.  It is worth the wait.


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Comments

  1. I agree, I have found myself many times paging through unseen chapters instead of focusing on the page of the day. Even so, God is good. Glad your son recovered well.

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