A few weeks ago, Julia shared her testimony in church. I had never met her at that point, but something in her story stirred something in my heart. I loved her honesty, vulnerability, and her clear desire to grow in her relationship with God, regardless of how she might be feeling day to day. As we continue to discover the “new wineskins” in our lives, I thought her testimony was the perfect place to begin – the hope while waiting. Thanks Julia for sharing! – Terrilee Friesen
– My Story of Waiting by guest blogger Julia Reimer –
I started attending my current church around May of last year. Donavan asked me to share a little bit of my story of this past year during a Sunday morning service, and my immediate thought was, “Nope, absolutely not! I am so unworthy to go up on that stage and say anything about my life.” My friend then graciously reminded me of the series we just finished on “unqualified” woman who made the genealogy of Jesus, and I thought, “Ok, God can use them. Maybe he can use me too.” I hope you’re encouraged by what I share here.
My story of waiting to me is confusing. It’s annoying, frustrating, and honestly kind of discouraging at times. So I thought, “How do I encourage others if I’m still in the middle of this whole thing.” But I realized the story isn’t necessarily in the results. Rather, it’s in the process. It’s not always about the answers we get at the end of the waiting season, but about the growth we make through the whole process. The growth that comes through the waiting and the seeking I’m realizing is the kind of growth that brings about incredible strength. A strength that is necessary for whatever God is preparing us for.
I started getting up in the mornings, sitting in my favourite chair with my coffee and journal, and I would just write, and sit with God. And I loved it! I would often picture myself on the side of a rock face. This was my place to meet with God; my safe haven. I would look out from my place on the rock, and pictures and verses would come to mind. It was amazing! It was fun! I had never experienced God like that before, and I had this intense peace and joy that I can’t really describe, considering the immense pain that I was also experiencing at the time. I craved those mornings, sitting in that chair and spending time with God. Those mornings energized me, nourished me. They gave me strength to get through really hard days. I learned to rely on God, and I began to understand how you can have joy through suffering and pain. And during those months of sitting with God, I became so excited about my faith and my next steps and where I was going. I felt myself coming out of a really dark place, and it was awesome.
A few months later, I had a really big personal thing going on, and I began to pray specifically about it. I began to write out verses and pictures that came to mind while praying with others about it. And one morning I got affirmation that it was time to act! I finally got an answer! And after about another month of praying and freaking out about actually getting an answer, I finally acted on it. And it was terrifying, but very exciting for me to finally be stepping out in faith. No more waiting! I was finally doing something besides sitting in my chair—as much as I love that chair, I was ready to get out of it.
So I acted, and honestly it completely blew up in my face. Things didn’t turn out the way I thought they would, the way I thought God was telling me they would. And it shook me. The confusion of being wrong, the pain of being thrown back into a place that I had worked so hard to get out of. I climbed out of the rock face—what a waste of time. It wasn’t fair. How dare God use me like that, misguide me like that. I was so mad. In my spite I continued to journal, but all entries for about 3 weeks were very melodramatic. For example, I found this one I wrote a few months ago:
God this sucks, I want to trust you and meet with you, but it feels like I don’t know how. It feels like I studied my butt off for a test, went in feeling SO confident, and then I totally bombed it. And now I have more exams coming up and I don’t have any faith in my study skills.
(I think anyone in school can relate to the horror of that analogy.) But that’s how I felt. I felt like I had no ability to connect with God. I felt totally incompetent.
After a few weeks of allowing myself to sit in my anger and bitterness (and meeting with my pastor and complaining about all of it), I decided I was going to try again. Worst case scenario is I’m wrong, but the best case scenario is that I get to meet with God again; reconnect with him. I get to rest in him and his peace and joy. I get to grow in my faith. I get the opportunity to be used as an example. And I get to be less cranky.
The morning I decided to try, with my pastor’s encouragement, I climbed back up into my spot on the rock. Except this time there was a curtain over the view. God had pulled it shut. He asked me to instead sit with him, abide in him, rest in him. I opened my Bible and I was lead right to Psalm 145:15-16:
“The eyes of all look to you and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” (NIV, bold mine)
I then got a picture of brilliant blue water flowing over a mountain of black rock—streams of God’s mercy washing over my hardened heart. I am so grateful that God is patient with my impatience. That he sees my desires and he will satisfy them—in his timing.
Another picture that I got and think of often is this:
I am in a canoe with Jesus. I’m looking out into the water and he is in the back steering. I probably could’ve been helping with paddling, but I was too focused on looking out into the endless blue waters and complaining that WEdidn’t know where WE were going. And Jesus, in his endless amount of patience asks me to turn around in the canoe. “Julia, just turn around. Let’s chat! Tell me about your day. How’s work? How are mom and dad?” So I turned, and we chat, and Jesus keeps paddling and he’s smiling and so calm. And he never takes his eyes off of me. And he asks me not to take my eyes off of him.
The water begins to get choppier and I feel myself begin to freak out and white knuckle the sides of the canoe. Jesus leans in and he smiles, and he calmly says “Just keep your eyes on me. I’ve got this. I am in control.” And he keeps paddling and smiling, and I lean in, while gripping the canoe. And I’m looking at him like when you’re having a staring contest and your eyes get dry because you’re not blinking, but I thought to myself, “Don’t you dare blink. This is scary, but keep your eyes on Jesus.”
We begin to go down rapids and a waterfall, and I’m screaming, and getting dry eyes. Jesus is calmly paddling and smiling. And we finally get to the end, and the quick rapids turn into calm waters, and I feel myself relax, but Jesus says, “Julia, not quite yet, ok? I know the view is nice now, and you feel safe to turn around, but would you keep looking at me? Would you stay here with me? I’m not done my work yet for you.”
I’m learning to rely on God when it doesn’t make sense, when I can’t see the full picture, when it’s scary, but also when I feel like things are going really well. I continue to wait on him and seek him. And I’m learning to do that by keeping my eyes on him, meeting with him daily—even when I really don’t want to; when I’m frustrated with him. I can acknowledge that I don’t see the full picture, but that’s OK. Because God does. He designed the picture.
Fast forward a few months and I’m still in my chair. I’m still waiting, but I’m waiting in hope. I’m waiting in confidence, knowing that God is good. He loves me, he is working a plan for me. And if he’s still working, I will keep waiting.
Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, The lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him, it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (NIV)Lamentations 3:22-26