She was very patient with us as we took our time ordering and then changing our minds several times. We even felt bad. She took our order and hurried off to the kitchen to relay our order to the cook. Forty minutes later we still didn’t have our food and we were getting a little irritated. The waitress was profusely apologizing and told us all the things that were going wrong in the kitchen, the new guy on the grill, the undercooked steaks, the complaints were piling up, she had had to take on three more tables than she could handle, etc. She had beads of sweat covering her forehead and her eyebrows screamed, “I give up!” Exacerbated, we told her to sit down for a minute and, against restaurant policy, she didn’t hesitate to sit down next to Jo. Now we could have ignored all these excuses, or reasons (depending on how you look at it), and given her the third degree and demanded our food be discounted or even free. But we didn’t. Jo and I looked at this young woman and encouraged her. We told her that we understood and that it was all O.K. We told her to take her time and to bring us our food when she could and we meant it, and she knew we meant it. In that moment, we took the weight out of our own wait and decided to focus on her struggles instead of our own. We didn’t have to do that. After all, she’s nothing but a waitress, a servant, paid a wage to bring us the food we order, right? We didn’t know her and she wasn’t part of our lives, not in a manner that matters to us, right? Wrong. We saw our waitress as a person created by hand, by God’s very hand. We saw a person, regardless of her role in our lives, who needed to be relieved of the weight that was driving her to despair. She didn’t know it, but she was a different kind of waitress in that moment. She was waiting for someone other than the someones who were ordering food. She was waiting for something far deeper than mere relief from the stresses of her job. She was waiting for the spiritual hope, relief, and the strength to keep going in life and Jo and I knew it. So Jo and I asked her if we could just pray for her and without hesitation she said yes and lowered her head. Jo prayed for her and when she had finished, the waitress got up, gathered herself, straightening her shirt and apron, and with a determined look on her face marched strongly back to work. I don’t know what impact we had on our waitress, but I have faith and confidence that the Holy Spirit did something within her, something everlasting. That’s the beauty of loving a suffering waiter with the selfless love of Christ.
There are two main things I gather from this experience. First, everyone is either waiting to suffer or waiting in suffering. You and I are in one or the other all the time. I don’t like it any more than you, but that’s just the way it is. I have never heard anything close to a convincing biblical argument that has come close to changing my opinion on this. And secondly, both are to wait actively. Life may seem like it’s on pause, but it’s not. To live as though life is on pause is a sign that a person has bought Satan’s lie, which communicates that you should just give up because you’re helpless and God isn’t going to help you, so just lie there and be still. Just exist. That seems like the most painless way to get through this time of suffering. And so we wait lifelessly and wander around the house like Eeyore passing the time away until the weight eases up and eventually (hopefully) dissipates.
Perhaps you’re in a place of suffering right now. I have no idea what you’re going through or what you’re feeling, but I do know what it means to be a waiter. I’m not talking about in a restaurant. I’m talking about a waiter who has waited and waded through unspeakable pain, disappointment, fear, and doubt with no end in sight. The intensity of my own pain wasn’t that long ago, I remember it clearly. I always will. I couldn’t see hope. I couldn’t see the Lord, you know, the One who is supposed to protect me, love me, and deliver me? That triune God Person (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) had allowed me to end-up in jail an innocent man. I mean, there’s three Persons that make God God and I couldn’t see even just One of them! And for a year I sat in jail two hours from home a completely innocent man, charged with twenty-two felonies, many times shouting, “Where are you, God!” I saw my wife only through a thick glass and spoke to her only by telephone and I never saw our two small children during that year in jail (we thought it was best they didn’t visit daddy in jail). No hugs from my wife or children for one year. Then I was placed on trial, where the rest of my natural born days would be decided by twelve people who didn’t know me by anything except for all the statewide television news media and articles written about me in the local paper, and that was not good. To make matters worse, some years back I had been a police officer in that city. Even worse, yes it gets worse, I was fired from my position after only about a year on the job.
This was not looking good for me. I felt as though I were waiting for my life to end and the process had already started. There was no way I would survive the trial. Of the twenty-two counts, surely I won’t be found “not-guilty” on all of them. Surely the jury will throw a bone to the prosecution’s side and convict me of something. I was waiting for my own execution; not only my execution, but also the emotional execution of my whole family. I had already lost one two year old son to cancer, I was losing another in the name of jealousy and revenge, and I was also losing my wife and three children to injustice of all things. I was in jail an innocent man waiting to die and there was absolutely nothing I could do to change my situation. All I could do was wait. This waiting carried unbearable weight.
The pain was unspeakable as I waited twelve months for the end to begin. I had between three and five nightmares every night. I would wake-up in the middle of the night
to find that I had been crying in my sleep. I even wet my bed once due to the emotional trauma. Morning after morning I woke-up to back pain because of the two-inch mattresses laid on steel. Sharp pains riveted my knees from constantly walking and standing on concrete floors. There were physical threats, fights, and prison politics to deal with. The absence of privacy bred feelings of insecurity and shame, which began an inner quiet boiling of anger…rage. I was told when to wake-up, when to eat, when to take medications, when to get new clothes, and when to clean. Many nights were of such intense emotional pain that I would press the pillow against my face and scream as loud as I could only to find that nothing would come out.
Unspeakable, literally unspeakable, pain. Feelings of despair, hopelessness, and death lingered like a dense fog and took root in my heart, then growing like crabgrass in the lawn. Through the daily, consistent doses of mental and emotional anguish, I quickly began to dwindle down as a person to nothing except a mere soul. Everything I thought I was had been shaved away. Everything I thought I wanted to do was burnt to the ground. I had no foreseeable future that mattered to me. Everyone I thought I would grow old with was now in the process of quickly fading away and becoming a mere memory. I figured that I would probably end-up alone. Every blissful dream I of raising my children, watching them grow, guiding them through daily life, and experiencing the milestones of their lives was shattered. It would probably be some other man in some other place. I was on the path of losing everything; having nothing, having no one, and being no one. This was the weight I experienced in my wait.
I’m obviously writing this material so you know that somehow things didn’t work out the way I had feared and I didn’t lose my life. I’m blessed to say that I am currently at home with my family. I hug my wife and children daily. I know God is with me and I will never doubt it again because I will never forget His work in me as I teetered on that edge of hopelessness. My battle isn’t over, but my faith is stronger than it’s ever been. My marriage is stronger than it’s ever been. My future is brighter than it’s ever been. And my courage is fuller than it’s ever been. So what happened? How did I start with pain and enter into gain? How did this happen?
Please keep me in prayer as I am writing quite a bit that may become a book. Stay tuned to this blog for more. From time to time I may ask you for feedback regarding my writing. I’ll be writing about the process of the above “weight” I carried and how I carried it. I’m hoping this book will help others understand what it means to “wait upon the Lord”, how to survive and thrive in the wait, and to give encouragement to those in a season of wait that God will pull them through and bring victory within and without. Stay tuned. Thanks so much.
In Christ Alone,