A God whose timing is not my timing

Advent is a season of waiting, of anticipating, of expecting. It’s a time when we prepare ourselves to celebrate the first coming of Jesus and acknowledge in our hearts the desire to see the second coming, when all will be set right, when every tear will be wiped away, when there will be no more sorrow or shame.

DSC05549In Isaiah 9:2, the prophet speaks of a great light shining upon the people who are walking in darkness, a long-awaited hope finally coming to pass. As Christians, we believe that it is in the person of Jesus that we find this hope — the one who will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

This is the vision, the dream, the future-to-come, that we long for: when Christ comes again, when God is in charge; this is the kingdom of God here on earth in all its glory; this is the hope of the world, the desire of nations, the longing of all creation.

But we are not yet fully there. And in recognizing that we are not yet there, wherever “there” may be for us — full healing and restoration in our bodies, reconciliation with a friend or a loved one, freedom from addictions and self-destructive habits, the end of racism and other systemic injustices — we acknowledge the darkness in which we walk. And sometimes that truth feels just as, if not more, tangible than the hope we claim to have.

Advent, Christmas, the end of the calendar year. These are all interesting times, full of conflicting emotions and thoughts and feelings — joy mixed with sorrow, resolution clashing with regret, memories of happiness wrestling with those of sadness. And it’s okay to be in that place; it’s okay to sit in that uncertainty.

TealightsIt’s okay to realize that you cannot rescue yourself from the situation you’re in; you cannot change the person who refuses to change him- or herself; you cannot make everything neat and tidy and organized into little boxes, as much as you may try. Because it often takes being in that place for us to cry out to God for deliverance, for us to realize how much we needed Jesus to come the first time, how much we need Jesus to come again, and how much we need Jesus in the in-between.

Over ten years ago, back when I was in college, I wrote this psalm of lament; and I found it recently and thought it’d be appropriate to share during this season of Advent.

God of silence, hear me;

hear my cry and speak.

Just as you heard the cries of the Israelites in Egypt

and rescued them, hear my cry and rescue me;

Just as you heard the cries of humanity for a savior

and dwelled among them, dwell with me.

You are God, maker of heaven and earth,

the One who speaks in the whirlwind and the whisper,

in the fire and the flood,

in the desert and the city.

 

Yet I cannot hear you. Are you speaking? Am I not listening?

I strain my ears to hear your voice. And all I hear is noise.

Have you gone away, left me to fend for myself?

You promised to be with us always.

You spoke before, and I heard; I listened, and I heard, and I rejoiced.

 

So I will wait again, for you are a God whose timing is not my timing,

whose ways are higher than mine, whose patience outstretches mine.

I will trust in your faithfulness, in your commitment to me,

for you have proved true time and again.

I will trust in your presence with me, even when I cannot feel you;

even when I cannot hear you, I will follow you.

 

And you will prove true once more;

I will hear you speak again.

Young Christians lament injustice

Last night, I was privileged to lead hundreds of young Christians in a time of lament as part of the Poverty and Advocacy track at Urbana 2009. We came together to cry out to God on behalf of those suffering from injustice and oppression, and particularly, as part of the Human Wrong Initiative, on behalf of millions of children trapped in modern slavery: in forced prostitution, forced labor, or recruited to be child soldiers. We came together to mourn the wrong that we see in the world, following the biblical precedents of the psalmists, of the prophets, and of Jesus, in engaging with God in prayer to seek change.

My role was to prepare the way for lament: to lay the biblical foundations, to provide a framework for engaging in lament, and to encourage a safe environment in which lament could take place. The rest was up to the students and God.

And boy, did we meet with God …

One of the last points that I made was that biblical lament stirs us to action and partnership with God. In Luke 19, Jesus wept over Jerusalem. He cried, “Oh, if you only knew the things that make for peace …” And then he went and cleared the temple. My prayer for those who engaged last night is that they use that session as a launching pad to do great and mighty things in the service of the kingdom of God.

[You can find recorded webcasts of the main Urbana 09 events here.]

God of silence

Original post: February 7, 2008; repost: March 18, 2010.

I was in a tough place when I wrote this, and I will admit that life is, and perhaps never will be, devoid of these experiences. But I think that these experiences can, if we let them, strengthen our sense of need and desperation for the One whom we cannot live without.

God of silence, hear me; hear my cry and speak.

Just as you heard the cries of the Israelites in Egypt and rescued them,hear my cry and rescue me; just as you heard the cries of humanity for a savior and dwelled among them, dwell with me.

You are God, maker of heaven and earth,the One who speaks in the whirlwind and the whisper, in the fire and the flood, in the desert and the city.

Yet I cannot hear you. Are you speaking? Am I not listening? I strain my ears to hear your voice. And all I hear is noise.

Have you gone away, left me to fend for myself? You promised to be with us always.

You spoke before, and I heard; I listened, and I heard, and I rejoiced.

So I will wait again, for you are a God whose timing is not my timing, whose ways are higher than mine, whose patience outstretches mine. I will trust in your faithfulness, in your commitment to me,for you have proved true time and again.

I will trust in your presence with me, even when I cannot feel you; even when I cannot hear you, I will follow you.

And you will prove true once more; I will hear you speak again.

— Justin Fung