According to Elisabeth Elliot, "Patient waiting does not come naturally to most of us, but a great deal is said about it in the Bible. It is an important discipline for anyone who wants to learn to trust." And boy, am I learning this the hard way right now.
Cody and I have been waiting 16 months, 3 weeks, and 1 day for a referral. And that's not even including the 8 months of paperwork it took prior to our names being officially registered in Ethiopia. And I guess while I'm at it, I'll mention that there were still 4 months before that of researching agencies and countries, begging God to reveal His will for our family, and numerous phone calls made and pre-applications submitted. So to add it all up, it's been nearly 2 and a half years since we began this process, and today, there is still no end in sight, no light at the end of this very dark tunnel.
When we started this process, we knew that this waiting, this uncertainty, was a very real possibility, and if you asked us then, we would have said that things could change anytime and we were prepared for that if it happened. We also thought that our wait for a referral would be approximately 3 to 4 months.
16 months. 3 weeks. 1 day.
I don't know how rusty your math skills may be, but that's more than 4 times as long as we initially thought. I'd be lying if I said that I haven't gotten discouraged, that I've trusted God perfectly through all these months of waiting.
I've gotten discouraged.
I've had my doubts.
In her book Passion & Purity, Elisabeth Elliot says:
"I do know that waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one's thoughts."
And as a result of all this waiting, I can honestly say that I am willing to bear the uncertainties, and I'm learning to carry my unanswered questions to God. Notice I didn't say that I've learned. I'm still learning. It's a day-by-day exercise. This stretching of faith is not exactly comfortable, but I really believe it's worth it. I want to trust, and if the discipline of patient waiting results in a deeper trust in God, so be it.
In reference to her courtship with Jim Elliot, Elisabeth wrote, "Tomorrow was not our business; it was His. Letting it rest with Him was the discipline for the day, and it was enough." She was writing about a day that they were able to spend together, and how in order to enjoy that time, they couldn't be agonizing about the future. They had to trust that it was in God's more than capable hands. During this time of waiting for our children, I have learned to thank God for this special time with Cody. This time that we get to learn more about each other as husband and wife without the responsibilities of keeping other little humans alive. It isn't always easy to be thankful. It is, as Elisabeth says, a daily discipline, but letting it rest with God is far better than worrying about it or falling into despair. That's not helpful to me, or my husband, or my children.
"It is not that everything that has anything to do with ourselves is in itself wicked and deserving of death. It did not mean that when Jesus said, 'Not my will...' There could not have been even the smallest part of His will that was wicked. It was a choice to lay down everything--the good He had done and the good He might do if He was permitted to live--for the love of God. The same choice is offered to us."
This was encouraging to read. I was reminded that my desire to bring these children home as soon as possible isn't wicked. I'm not wrong to will that God give us a referral soon, that the process would go smoothly and quickly. God wills that we place the orphans into families. That we love one another the way Christ loved us. That we esteem others and their good better than our own. But even though I'm not wrong to want any of that, I'm called to lay aside my own will and prefer God's. If I love God, that's what I'll do. It's not easy. Sometimes I don't understand it. But I want to love God, so that's what I must do.
Reading Passion & Purity was such an encouragement to me in this long wait for our children. It was also a challenge. The final arrow to my heart was from one of Elisabeth's diary entries as she wondered what God's will was for her and Jim:
"Today the thought occurred to me, Suppose He should ask me to wait five years? It stuns me to think of it. Yet--could I imagine that the mercy of God which has stretched to me from everlasting to everlasting could be exhausted in five years?"
Surely Your mercy is enough. Thank You for teaching me to trust You completely, deeply, unconditionally.