I adore Advent and Christmas, but I am not good at waiting. When I come up with a Christmas gift for my husband, I struggle to wait to give it to him. I want him to play the “guess what I got you” game, and he wants to wait until Christmas and be surprised. This impatience is a trait my grandma passed down to me. When I was young, she would let me sneak a peek at Christmas gifts or divulge revealing information about her present for me. Waiting is not one of my family’s virtues. In the family of Christ, the struggle to waiting for the fulfillment of promises goes back farther in my genealogy than my grandma. Sarah, the wife of Abraham, also had trouble waiting for promises to be fulfilled.
Sarah was old, barren, and tired of waiting. So she came up with a plan of her own to ensure God’s promise to make her husband a great nation would come to fruition:
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived (Gen 16:1-4).
I wait like Sarah. I make my own plan when things seem to take too long, or the original plan does not look like it’s going to work out. My first big fight with my husband took place because of my inability to wait and follow a plan.
I loved our first home, but it was a constant project. It was built in 1910. The basement was a rock foundation that was always wet and frequently had standing water. When we moved in, the living room’s flooring was a carpet remnant stapled to the floor. And the kitchen was in dire need of updates: the linoleum was peeling, the fridge was olive green, the countertops yellow, and the wallpaper a bold plaid accented with a busy fruit border.
The instant we toured the home, we made promises and plans for renovation. We did the little things we could on a tight budget. As a wedding gift, my parents bought us flooring for the kitchen and living room. One weekend, my father-in-law and dad came up to help us take out a wall, put up a support beam, and create a new entryway. The fulfilled promise of a new kitchen was near but wasn’t quite there yet.
The Monday after the wall was taken down, I saw an ad promoting a big box store’s rebate special. I took it as a sign from the heavens. This would be our chance, on our tight budget, to buy the necessary tools and items for the rest of the kitchen renovation to happen. I was new to homeownership and didn’t realize how frequently these rebate sales came around.
While my husband was at work, I ripped down the cabinets. I could see the kitchen transforming under my newly formed plan. I had made a few holes with the crowbar, but it was nothing that couldn’t be patched. I could not wait for my husband to see all the work I had done.
I didn’t have to wait long. When he came home for lunch, he found our old cabinets scattered about on the floor of our new entryway. I was seven-months pregnant and couldn’t reach one cabinet which remained dangling from the ceiling. He stared at this remnant with fear, and I did not receive the look of joy on his face or words of affirmation I expected.
He had just started a new job. We were about to have a baby. The busy season of planting was about to start, and I had ripped our home apart. I thought I was doing something good and something that would fulfill this promise of a renovated kitchen. What I had actually done was to destroy the kitchen and add stress, tension, and more anxiety into our lives.
God promised to give Sarah and Abraham a child, even though they were old and beyond the years of bearing children. They had the promise of offspring, yet no children in their arms. Tired of waiting, Sarah decided to create her own opportunity for the fulfillment of God’s promises through Hagar.
Who, in their right mind, would tell their husband to go have sex with their slave and produce offspring? Who, in their right mind, would rip apart a kitchen at 7 months pregnant when their husband is starting a new job and is on the precipice of his first busy season? How foolish and impatient can a person be? It turns out the family trait of not being able to wait runs deep and wide in the family of God. We do foolish things while we wait for promises to be fulfilled.
Fights, devastating circumstances, tension, and anxiety come about because of our foolish plans and inability to wait, and yet we still have hope.
The promise of a kitchen did not come from God. The plan and the promise were made between my husband and me. The kitchen project is merely an illustration of how bad I am at waiting and how often I want control of a plan and a promise. I do the same with God’s promises. I fail to rely on them and instead cling to my own abilities, and I foolishly assume he needs my help to fulfill his promises.
2020 has painfully highlighted how awful I am at waiting. I want to go places, but my hands are tied. Nothing I can do will hurry this year along and out the door. Likewise, nothing I can do will hurry along Christ coming again.
Thankfully, nothing I can do will undo the promises that have already been fulfilled. The beauty is that even the futility of my plans and actions won’t undo the promises and plans made by God. Fights, devastating circumstances, tension, and anxiety come about because of our foolish plans and inability to wait, and yet we still have hope.
Sarah and her foolish plan didn’t stop God’s plan to give her a son, his covenant with Abraham, nor his promises to save us through his son.
“The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age” (Gen 21:1-7).
My impatience, foolishness, and crowbar can not undo the plans and promises of God.
This Advent season, we wait with blessed hope and assurance. Regardless of how we wait, Christ is coming back for us, just as he planned and promised.