Well, October 21, 2015 is here, and the writers of Back to the Future, Part II have let me down.
Despite that movie’s predictions, many things haven’t arrived. No flying cars. No hoverboards. No bionic implants, drone dog-walkers, or Jaws 19, though Star Wars might hit that mark eventually.
You know what else hasn’t arrived?
My wedding day.
Hold the phone – yes, there are men who look forward to that. My brother was one of them. I say “was”, because it’s now past him. How the fat-cheeked rugrat I remember from my childhood grew into a hatchet-faced stud and wooed the perfect match for him, I’ll never know. But he did, and I was his best man Saturday. Good times had by all. (The bride fused the bachelor and bachelorette parties into one laser tag game. You married the right woman, bro.)
And as I sat there during the first dance, fumbling for words for the toast I was to give, a realization hit me: I wasn’t envious that my brother had “escaped” singleness and I had not. I wasn’t sad at all.
It’s probably because my wait has cornered me into another one:
God would have been a fool to give me a wife any sooner.
There are some in the kingdom of God who long for a mate. It’s a difficult wait. (That rhymes.)
To those who still chase Jesus with all your heart despite disappointment, I want to say well done. You’ve been asked to go without something that’s important to you, and you’ve clung to what is even more important. Well done. Your devotion has not escaped God’s notice.
Yet it can still be hard for those so disposed. It’s easy to wonder: Why must I keep waiting?
Science fiction often deals with the prospect of changing the past. If I had Doc Brown’s time machine and the chance to travel back and rewrite my story, there are things I’d think about tweaking. Tragedies that were out of my control. Mistakes that weren’t. Years of total cluelessness. What if I could relive them as a wiser man, improve the present by altering the past?
But the better stories also point out the “refuge of now”. How can we really know things would be better? Who knows what ripple effects would occur, what treasures I’d lose, if I changed the past?
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
I’m not saying I’d repeat every trial God has allowed in my life. Some were his doing; others he would have happily prevented if others had cooperated.
And yet…and yet…
I like the benefits God has given through those things. And I wouldn’t risk parting with them.
It yanks on my pride to admit that the wait was a better idea. But I can see what God has accomplished because of it. I’m smarter. I’m calmer. I’m much more aware of the impact of my words on another set of ears. Most of all, I’ve learned the supremacy of finding my joy in Christ, and more importantly, how to find it (something singles’ books often forget to offer).
These are all things I’ll need in marriage, and I got them through the only possible mechanism – waiting. Nobody is ever quite “ready” for marriage. But there’s “not ready”, and then there’s “certifiable for even thinking about it”. I’d like to think that by God’s grace I’m no longer the latter. I’m a different man now than six months ago – and I’ve been saying that for years now.
The end results of God’s choices in my life are unassailable.
For the singles out there who’d love their wait to just be over, I hope this encourages you: waiting is powerful. It is transformative. It’s not just standing there passively, like waiting for a bus. God is just as invested in the journey as in the destination.
Maybe that sounds like a musty proverb, something quoted by your grandfather or a greeting card. We need to start seeing it as vital.
Even Jesus understood the value of waiting. He didn’t just start walking around Israel healing people at age four. He started by letting John baptize him – a humble move, far from the glory he could have reached for. He kept quiet about his miracles. He rejected the devil’s shortcuts to power (Matthew 4:9-10). His confidence in his Father’s ways was rewarded richly.
Waiting is not the destruction of longings; it is their sanctification. Waiting is not the opposite of living; it is living. Waiting is our training ground, our refinement, a holy pressure, like that which turns coal into the diamond you’re hoping to get (or offer) one day. It’s not necessarily a sign that God opposes your longing. It might in fact be the very thing you need for it.
And whatever else, waiting is a space we create that God will never fail to fill.