Four weeks into this maternity leave malarky and I want to keep the focus in living well in this waiting. I’ve written about the whole long term living thing before, about how the Bible doesn’t really express the long long periods of waiting that God’s people had to go through in order to see him work. It jumps from one story of his work to another with only brief words inbetween, 30 years later, 40 years later, 400 years later. One day when I’m a famous author (ahem) I’ll publish a book called ‘the space between the stories’ (copywrite to me ok?) and it’ll be a very pretty book with lots of blank pages to try and get our heads around the long pauses between all the exciting stuff that goes on. Really the only thing it’s got going for it is the name so maybe some American cool arty Christian publishing house could publish ‘The Long Walk Home Journal’, subtitle ‘the space between the stories’ (no capitals is cooler) for people to write in their own experiences of the silence of God. It’s a thought. Anyone want to take it up?
Where was I? Ah yes, four weeks into maternity leave and I’ve still got a while to wait, my body gets ever more strange with each passing day, new aches and pains arrive and this bump in front of me gets in the way, wiggles, shimmies and generally pokes me. Sometimes it’s cute but sometimes I feel like a Russian Doll on a washing machine cycle. It’s got me thinking again about the space between the stories. In particular the one where the Maker of the Universe comes and wiggles about in the womb of a young woman for 9 months before entering into the world. Matthew and Luke make a big deal of this. Mary is with child and the promises that surround this child are enough to make anyones head spin. Mary instead of laughing at God, instead of dismissing the angel as a strange trippy dream treasures these things up in her heart. She dwells on them, she lives in these promises for 9 months.
The next sentences we get in our Bibles skip to the birth story, suddenly Mary is off to Bethlehem, in labour and welcoming shepherds in to see this new life. But she’s had 9 months to think about these things. I imagine she had days where she totally forgot about the angel, I imagine she had days of just getting on with life, I imagine her waiting didn’t look like all her thoughts were consumed with Jesus. There would have been work to get on with, a relationship with Joseph to work on as they worked through the strangeness of what had happened. I imagine, and at least we are told this, that she hung out with her cousin and marveled at the impossible work of God together as they both expected miracle babies.
I want to recognise that this is an important part of waiting, that waiting doesn’t consign us to some glorified waiting room where all we can do is think about the thing we are waiting for. I don’t think Biblical waiting looks like that, I think it looks like resting and I think it looks like doing some stuff, like getting on with life with the reality of that waiting infusing what we do but not consuming what we do.
We long for Jesus to return, we long to hear God speak to us, we long to live lives well in the light of what we know, we long to be free from the pain in our hearts, we long for change but in the meantime we wait. We go about our normal days, we work, we wash up, we meet up with friends, we talk to God, we ignore God and our lives are infused with his presence in the midst of this waiting, bringing reality and hope to the ordinary stuff of life. We wait actively and we wait passively, seeking him as our refuge, seeking stillness to call attention to him, loving and serving those around us, delighting in walking together on the way home. His return infuses our life with meaning but doesn’t leave us paralysed in some kind of ethereal waiting room detached from reality.
So I want to wait actively and passively in these last few weeks before our baby is born. I have no idea what life will look like beyond that moment. I know that I want to live well in the meantime, trusting God for the future and knowing his grace in this present moment, loving well, serving well and resting in his arms. To be still and know that He is God is the call for these weeks, to make the most of the well moments, to rest in the tired grumpy moments and to know that there is more to life here than what will happen in a few weeks, however much it might not feel like that.