I have opened Christmas presents early, sneaking in with a sharp knife in the middle of the night and carefully opening my presents just enough to see what they were. This made my Christmas at 11 years of age miserable — I faked being surprised by my Christmas morning gifts. Rather than taking delight at my careful sleight of hand at opening and resealing my gifts so my parents wouldn't know, I was miserable. No surprises, only fake delight on that Christmas morning.
I have left lines, only to stand in longer lines because I was impatient. I have daily checked the mailbox, the front porch, and driven the folks at UPS and FedEx crazy trying to track a package that was not even late yet. When my son was assigned in high school many years ago to spend the day working with me, he reported that, "Dad never wasted any time waiting. He was always doing something on his BlackBerry so he didn't waste time." What crushed me is that I realized I had not spent the time talking to him! I apologized after reading his report.
However, sometimes my impatience is humbling and eye opening. For four years, my heart has stood on tiptoe waiting, praying, and gently visiting with someone I want to come to Christ. She is precious — not just to me, but to my wife Donna and to several of my friends who know her. She desperately wants some switch to go off in her heart so she knows in that place of her reluctance that this is the right thing for her to do. She is gracious, sweet, smart, kind, and good. But she has not yet fully surrendered her life to Jesus... and this keeps my heart in agony. Her decision is not something I can cajole, pressure, nudge, or push. She has to do this for herself. But waiting for her to do this, to confess Christ and step into a baptistery and go public with her faith, is harder than I have words to describe. This is a person so precious to us that we cannot imagine her not being in our forever family of grace.
This is a different kind of impatience. This impatience has been humbling because it has opened my eyes to parents, spouses, grandparents, and friends who have stood on tiptoe until their spiritual legs have gone into full spasm waiting for their loved one, their precious child, their intended spouse, or their precious one to come to Jesus. I have been blessed to have taken the confession and baptized both of my children, now adults and strong disciples. (Thank you God for this gift beyond words given me by both children!) So this four year experience has opened my eyes and my heart to each of you who are waiting... pleading... hoping... that your special person will make that next crucial step toward the Father. So we keep expectantly scanning the horizon hoping that this is the day they make that crucial step toward Jesus and home.
This impatience has been humbling because it has given me a glimpse of how our Father feels with those so close, yet so far away, from being His child. It helps me appreciate and understand that it was not strange for the father in Jesus' parable (Luke 15:11-32) to scan the horizon every single day, and every single opportunity during the day, to catch the glimpse of his prodigal son on the horizon so he could run to that lost son and welcome him home. In some ways, it is even harder when the person for whom we wait is not a prodigal, but a precious person who is hung up on something we can't remove... or fix... or at times even understand.
So like my life right now, these thoughts won't end with a simple five-step plan to deal with our impatience or three easy ways on how to win the reluctant loved one. This kind of impatience, this kind of waiting, is hard and without a simple Mr. Fixit recipe. All I know to do is to keep loving my precious one and to keep praying for her heart to reach that decision point and to keep living for the day of joy for which I yearn for her. In addition, I feel a deeper bond and commitment to pray for those who are caught in this time of waiting for someone else they love to come home to Jesus.
The waiting is the hardest part. Let's keep trusting that our waiting will one day give way to what Peter describes as being "filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy" because the one we love has come to receive the salvation of our God" (1 Peter 1:8-9).
O God, please help your day of salvation come soon in the life of this one so precious to me. While I yearn for Jesus "to come quickly, hallelujah," I beg You Lord to tarry until I can see this one so precious to me become part of our forever family. Amen.
Here's a late update. At 10:45 Thailand time on Sunday January 26, I was privileged to baptize Melody, also called XiaoKang and Nam Tam, into Christ along with two others who have become so precious to me over the last two weeks. Four years of loving and praying and waiting ended in a celebration of joy with this one I have called Precious from the day I first read the story of Jesus with her. There were Thai, Chinese, Karen (the name of a group of native hill tribe people and also the name of Melody's Christian sister and both were present), refugees from Burma, the US, Laos, and children from a children's home that the Payap Christian Zone serves and who love Melody who were all present. Just a little taste of heaven and the waiting for this precious one is now over. So who is next on my list? There's room in My Father's house for many more!