Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
David wrote those words in the midst of a cry to God about how the wicked succeeded all around him. He was agonizingly frustrated because, even though he had the desire to do good, he seemed to fail more often than those who worked wicked deeds. His godly desires did not match up with reality—yet. This passage comes from Psalm 37, which is one of my favorites because I can identify with David. I have prayed that scripture many times before, because the more time I spend with the Lord, the more I grow closer to him, and my desires conform to his. As my desires have changed, my heart has grown to seek God’s glory among the nations. Yet I am continually frustrated in my works of righteousness. As much as I desire to be overseas, God has planted me here, in the States. David wrote these words after learning from experience that, in time, godly desires will prosper. The thing is, God fulfills those promises because they glorify him, not because they are my desires. He cares about me, yes, but he wants me to be content in him and with his timing. In the end he will let my righteousness shine like the dawn, and the justice of my cause will be undeniable to all those who care to look because of his Name’s sake.
I know analogies from the theater are often overused and abused, but sometimes they are the clearest way to communicate a point, so here goes. Most of my theater experience came from musical theater productions in grade school. I know it’s difficult to imagine, but I was a very dramatic child. 😉 I always loved the part of the play when I was on stage. I got to perform and play my part to help tell a story. I was always anxious when my cue was near because I had to wait in the wings, paying close attention and waiting for my moment to shine. If I did the waiting and listening part right, I would walk in on cue and everything went off smoothly. I am beginning to realize that there are times in my life when it’s my lot to wait in the wings. I am called to pay attention to what’s going on around me and to be prepared for the action after my cue. I am learning that, in fact, without the waiting in the wings, I might usher myself on too early and mess things up. I might come onstage ill-prepared.
In my times in the wings as a child I sometimes got frustrated with the long wait. I remember wondering if I would have time to leave and come back or to begin a conversation with a friend waiting alongside me. I think I do this in my walk too. As strong as my desire to serve and love overseas is, sometimes I get frustrated with the in between times when I feel unused and not a part of God’s global work. And instead of waiting on the Lord to see what he has planned for my waiting periods, I try to leave and forget about my calling. Instead of following the lamp for my feet and the light for my path that is God’s Word, I try to stumble around in the dark, bumping into things in my blind rush to find something else to do.
In times like these I find myself identifying with Jeremiah, my favorite prophet. After continual frustration about his reception, Jeremiah tries to shut up God’s Words inside of him and not let them out. He tries to move on from what he perceived as a lost cause:
But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.
Jeremiah simply could not leave his calling. He couldn’t forget about it. He couldn’t hold it in. He couldn’t refuse his life’s calling without feeling the pain of his unfinished mission. Like Jeremiah, I too have tried to keep it in and go on with my life. But by God’s mercy, I was chivvied onstage for a minor scene again before I exited once more to await my next cue in the wings.
Like Jeremiah, too, I have also tried ignoring my calling. After being deeply wounded by the sins of his people and feeling unbearable pain because he knew of their judgment and coming destruction, he could not keep quiet. He knew of the disaster coming, and he spoke of it in spite of the agony it caused him. Just as Jeremiah, I cannot escape the reality of my calling because I am sometimes crushed with the weight of God’s grief for the condemnation of his people.
Oh, my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart! My heart pounds within me, I cannot keep silent. For I have heard the sound of the trumpet; I have heard the battle cry.
I’m coming to realize that I am part of the story even while I’m waiting in the wings—a part God is using and preparing. He wrote the play, and he knows every little thing that will happen before he draws the curtain. He knows when each actor comes and goes, and he know just how long it should be before each character walks onstage to shine like the noonday sun to play their part in telling HIS story. So for now, I am content to wait in the wings. I can watch the story close by and prepare myself to fully understand the part I will play when I hear my cue.