Oh, the Places You’ll Go is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books. I received it as a graduation present from college and it still chokes me up when I read it to my kids for some reason. I love every part of it… except one… Dr. Seuss’ perspective on the waiting places in life. I cringe every time I read it to my kids and even change the words a bit (forgive me Dr. Seuss for meddling with your writing!)
In talking about those waiting places in life we can find ourselves, Seuss writes…
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weridish wild spaces
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place
the Waiting Place…
When I get to this point I usually say “a most hard place” instead of “a most useless place.” But the truth is, isn’t that how we can sometimes view those waiting places in our lives? As useless or just as something to get through until the real action happens. I don’t know of many people who relish being in waiting places.
Most of us just want to move past waiting.
But are those waiting places real useless? Clearly if I am changing the words to the book for my kids, I think this is not the best perspective to have on waiting. If waiting places are not useless places, what is happening in the midst of our waiting places in life? And we all have them. Is anything happening in the waiting of life?!
Here’s where Paul give us some insight on the waiting places in life in Romans 8:18-25
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God… 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
We aren’t the only ones in waiting places. Paul exclaims that creation itself is waiting. It is waiting to be redeemed… waiting to be made right… waiting for all to be made well.
But it is how creation waits that struck me. Did you catch it? Creation waits, but it waits with eager longing. The Greek word for wait here has the sense of waiting on tiptoes, with expectation that something marvelous is about to happen.
In reading this I thought about the way I wait and I must confess that waiting on tiptoes with eager expectation is not normally my posture in the waiting, especially when I have been waiting for something for years… and years. I tend to get pretty grumbly in the waiting, hands across my chest, foot tapping impatiently, with the thoughts, “Okay already God!” I can tend to wait with impatience.
How do you usually wait?
Maybe you are like me and you wait with impatience. You want to rush through the unknown to get to the known. You just want to get to the next thing.
Or maybe you wait with dread. Maybe you wait for the ax to drop, for things to go wrong. Maybe you have your eyes shut tight, your hands over your head, trying to shield yourself from whatever is coming.
It is here where Romans 8 instructs us, where our faith guides us in the waiting. You see, when we are in a place of waiting it is always an indication that God is doing something, something good, we just cannot see it yet. This whole passage in Romans 8 is about a God who is doing something far more glorious than we can see or fathom… a God who Paul later says, “works all things for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28. So this passage encourages us, instead of waiting with impatience or dread, wait with hope.
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:25
Hope. We hope for what God is doing but what we cannot fully see yet! The word “wait” in verse 25 is the same word used in verse 19, when it says creation waits with eager longing… eager longing is part of the meaning of the word “wait.” So here in verse 25 we are encouraged to hope for what we do not see, just like creation is doing, and we are also encouraged to wait for it with eager expectation.
We wait on tiptoe… because we know, we expect eagerly that God is doing something marvelous.
This text calls us out, our attitude in the waiting. This text draws us into the assurance of God’s good activity, God working toward wholeness and redemption not just in our lives but in the whole of the cosmos. It is this assurance of God’s good activity that enables us to wait… to live with eager longer and with patience.
Ah patience… that can be a dreaded word. The word patience here is the word hypomone in the Greek. It means perseverance or patient enduring. Hypo means “under,” meno means “remain,” so literally, it is a remaining under. There is some grit in this waiting, some endurance and strength of will required. We hold on, we remain under our situation of waiting. But the reason we can remain under it is because we hold to the hope that something more is going on.
It is a waiting with eager longer and patience we can have only because we know that God is not done yet. This moment, right now, is not the end of the story.
That is how can we can wait on tiptoe in the midst of those groaning places in life, in places of unmet desires, unfulfilled hope, unexpected loss and grief. That is the secret to waiting with expectation. We can wait on tiptoe because we know God is doing something, we just don’t know what yet. But it will be something marvelous, something extraordinarily good, something beyond our expectations.
So, Dr. Seuss, the waiting places in life, they are anything but useless… they are in fact the most important places because those waiting places are the places where God is doing his most significant work.
So friends, arches up! Stand on those tiptoes! And await the wonderful God is going to do in your waiting places.