Tootsie Pops, Waiting, The Real Story of the Cement Truck, and A Return from Tanzania

17 Dec

I don’t do New Years resolutions. For recovering perfectionists like myself, resolutions turn into “should haves” and “should haves” turn to guilt which soon becomes regret. So I don’t do that. Instead, every year, for the past three years, I’ve picked a word that will define that new year for me. Just one word. This year’s is JOY. And if you’re a regular reader, you know what I’ve learned about joy over the past 12 months.

However, instead of pondering about it too much, my word for 2012 came early.

The Roddys before the retreat

It was November. The culmination of a lot of things for me. I go on an annual young adult retreat every year at this time. I have a birthday, usually an occasion in and of itself. Thanksgiving happens. And this year two great friends, Liz and Shannon Roddy, came back after being gone for a year and a half in Tanzania, Africa serving at Wild Hope International. Oh how I had waited for them. In the midst of life I would often say aloud and yet rhetorically, “Liz and Shannon should be here, don’t you think?” At first it was a sad addition to whatever memorable moment my friends and I were having at the time. Then it became a joke to those who know me well. Before I could even say it, my roommate would see the sad look on my face as my forehead wrinkled, my head turned down, and my eyes filled slightly with tears and she would ask, “What, I’m not good enough? Just kidding. I know. Liz and Shannon should be here.”

But they weren’t. For a year and a half (despite the fact that they were doing amazingly awesome things and growing a ton), they missed birthdays, Christmases, milestones.  My breakup, my roommate’s new promotion to pastoral staff, that time I took a missions trip to the Czech republic, births of babies, deaths of people within our church, small moments, big moments. There’s only so much you can relay over Skype. They missed a lot. And I missed them. Waiting, waiting for their arrival back into my life.

When I saw their faces for the first time, I remembered what it was like to have complete  joy return. I hugged them and jumped up and down, probably waking up all of my sleeping neighbors as we lugged their bags into my apartment. Finally. They. Were. Here. And they were in the same room as me, breathing the same air, cracking jokes and able to engage with us without the screen freezing or the power going out. We laughed. We realized how much we had changed. And how much we were still the same.

I found in the time that they were visiting us that I wanted everything to go faster. Maybe it was a hold over from the year and a half of waiting. I wanted to catch them up on everything, hear their stories, and live the life that had been missed by all of us for the past 18 months.

This urgency culminated on our way to the young adult retreat. I was so used to waiting that I didn’t want to wait anymore. I wanted us to BE there. So when our car got stuck behind a cement truck going 20 MPH on a mountain road, I got irate.

The rest of the car thought I was crazy with impatience. I kept yelling at the truck to move over.  He wouldn’t move. Every turn was torture. Every place he could pull over, he refused. Finally, what seemed like hours later, the truck slowly found its way to the shoulder. (My roommate swears it was only 30 seconds that we were stuck behind the truck). After my irrational behavior, everyone else in the car was convinced I needed to settle down. But I didn’t.

I kept being impatient.

And suddenly like that, the Roddys were gone again. The card games, the night at the Lawry’s Steak House with Liz, the pool sharking she and I had done at the retreat, the spiritual conversations. It all went by in a flash.

We're such pool sharks! We were on a roll!

Even in this season of advent. I’m ready for New Year’s. I want to skip through Christmas because I don’t feel like it’s Christmas. I want to get to the good part of the story, the chocolate dipped cone at the bottom of the ice cream drumstick, the Tootsie Roll in the center of the Tootsie Pop.

It’s in the quiet moments I realize that I need to wait. For what, I don’t know. Maybe a whisper. Maybe an answer? Maybe just silence. Yet there is something pushing me forward. I don’t know what it is. I don’t want to miss this chance to wait, though. I know in my heart the greatest gift the world has ever seen is coming soon. And in my impatience, I may miss Him. And that would be a great tragedy.

As I was contemplating waiting this past week, I heard this in a poem by Issac Wimberly in spoken word form that makes me want to be a better wait-er.

This groaning was growing, generation after generationKnowing He was holy, no matter what the situationBut they longed for HimThey yearned for HimThey waited for Him on the edge of their seatOn the edge of where excitement and containment meetThey waitedLike a child watches out the window for their father to return from work—they waitedLike a groom stares at the double doors at the back of the church—they waited

And in their waiting, they had hope

Hope that was fully pledged to a God they had not seen

To a God who had promised a King

A King who would reign over the enemy

Over Satan’s tyranny

They waited

Wow. People waited YEARS for Jesus. 400 years. And I get all upset about a cement truck and a year and a half without my friends. Despite all my wanting the best for people, I can still get upset about still being single while others are getting engagement rings and sonograms. Perspective shift, much after hearing this poem/spoken word? Yeah. Definitely. I can wait. And in the moments I can’t, I will learn. I will hope that despite the fact that things don’t work out exactly the way I planned that there still is a plan. And in that hope I can believe that the lyrics to the song I heard recently by Jesus Culture are true. “I have a plan for you/ It’s gonna be wild/It’s gonna be great/It’s gonna be full of Me.”

So because of this, this next year will be the year that I will learn to wait. Patience: my word for 2012.

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