I left graduate school believing that very soon I would have a job, career, ministry … something that I would feel fulfilled in and gain experience from. I didn’t feel the need to pay attention to a conversation I had with my grandfather driving home cross-country back to Oregon. We were talking about knowing what one is supposed to do with one’s life, and I asked him, “How do I know that it is exactly where I should be at?”
My grandpa shared a piece of advice I would forget, only to remember it after I had to learn the hard way: “Larissa,” he said, “when you pray, pray as to get to know Christ. Prayer is about knowing our Father in heaven.”
A little taken aback at the seeming irrelevancy of the advice, I nodded my head and changed lanes. I have to remember this, I thought. OK, I told myself, I should pray to know Christ; OK, I have to do that … then I will know what God’s will is for me.
Months down the road after discouragement, angst, anger and frustration, I found myself still in the same place, still with no perspective future, unemployed and even more worried and restless than before.
I sat on the rocks by a river near our house, having spent a week in tears and confusion, feeling broken and overwhelmed. I felt as though I had somehow fallen into a deep ditch, and I could not even find any foothold to climb out. I had never felt so discouraged in my life. When looking at where I could be in five years or even five months, I could not even conjure up a small picture through the blackness that enveloped me.
Looking out across the river, I just sat. I did nothing.
And a question came to me: “Larissa, what are you waiting for?”
That was easy. “For You, Lord.”
“Larissa, what are you waiting for?”
Hmm. “For You, of course, Lord."
“Larissa, what are you waiting for?”
I began to feel like Peter, “Um … for You, Lord!”
“Are you really?”
This question came softly, like a gentle hand that lifted up my chin to help me see more than my feet.
I asked myself the question again, “Am I really?” It dawned on me slowly and my grandfather’s words came back to me: “When you pray, pray to know Christ.”
Yes, I had been waiting for the Lord … but for Him to come through for me with a job, a plan, anything that came up, just something more than waiting on the Lord.
“Waiting on the Lord” can become cliché quite quickly, but I began to finally see what my grandpa meant. I had an agenda each time I prayed. My prayers did not reveal a satisfaction in God but a dissatisfaction with Him. I knew I could trust Him, but I prayed as though my plans were wiser and better than His. I prayed as though I did not trust Him.
As soon as I began to pray without an agenda, my inner anxieties began to dissolve.
I relaxed about where I was and who I was.
My vision seemed uncannily clearer. I no longer prayed with the nonverbal ultimatum of “come through for me or else."
I arrived at a place of “being” instead of waiting. I became comfortable and comforted.
Sue Monk Kidd tells a story that reflects our often mistaken viewpoint on waiting. During a retreat at a monastery, in her restless state, she notices a monk:
"[He was] sitting perfectly still beneath a tree. There was such reverence in his silhouette, such tranquil sturdiness, that I paused to watch. He was the picture of waiting.
"Later I sought him out. ‘I saw you today sitting beneath the tree—just sitting there so still. How is it that you can wait so patiently in the moment? I can’t seem to get used to the idea of doing nothing.’
"He broke into a wonderful grin. ‘Well, there’s the problem right there, young lady. You’ve bought into the cultural myth that when you’re waiting you’re doing nothing.’
"Then he took his hands and placed them on my shoulders, peered straight into my eyes and said, ‘I hope you’ll hear what I’m about to tell you. I hope you’ll hear it all the way down to your toes. When you’re waiting, you’re not doing nothing. You’re doing the most important something there is. You’re allowing your soul to grow up. If you can’t be still and wait, you can’t become what God created you to be.’”
This is where God eventually called me after all those months: to a new perspective of becoming something out of seemingly nothing.