July 5, 2023 | Matt Angell
When we first returned from Uganda the question that we were asked most often was “are you glad to be back?” That was a difficult question to answer. In some ways the answer was yes. We were glad to spend time with friends and loved ones. We were glad to be able to drive on smooth roads and find deodorant at the local store. However, there were many reasons why we were not glad. We hated leaving our relationships in Uganda. Some of us dealt with guilt over leaving the mission field. We did not enjoy the new cost of living. It was an expected yet difficult question to answer. However, the most asked question we get now is even harder.
“What are you going to do next?” It is not as though I do not want to answer it to keep people in the dark. I have no secret plan that I am waiting to unveil at the right time. It is hard to answer because I have no idea what the answer is. Our family is in the dreaded season of…waiting.
The problem with a season of waiting is that it can make most areas of your life unsettled. When we feel unsettled, it can be difficult to make decisions, even small ones. Should we paint this room? Well it depends. How long will we be living in this house? A lack of decision-making can leave us feeling as if we are drifting through life without something to which we can be anchored. However, a season of waiting does not have to be this way. It can actually be a time of great hope and strengthened faith. As we are going through this season of waiting there are four things I am trying to keep at the forefront of my mind and as a part of my prayers.
The first is to be fully present. This is especially vital since our end goal could include moving. However, this principle is also true for people who are waiting for something that does not include moving yet is so all encompassing that they are tempted to disconnect from their life while they wait.
There are many people whose friendships I value greatly. There are many more people I want to get to know. It would be heartbreaking to look back two years from now and regret not spending time with people God has put into my life, regardless of whether we stay or move. Either way we go these people can be lifelong friends. At the same time, I must remain engaged in the other facets of life. I cannot put things on hold while we wait. Children are enrolled in school, the grass is mowed, and while I may not put an addition on my house right now, if a room needs to be painted it is going to be painted.
The second thing is to not be dismissive. What I cannot be dismissive of is potential future plans that do not fit neatly into my preferences. I learned this during an earlier season of waiting. When we started praying about going into international missions the idea of going to Africa was floated out there to me. Africa did not fit into my list of preferred destinations and I scoffed at the idea. One year later, we moved to Uganda and it was exactly what we needed. As this season of waiting progresses options will naturally get narrower as God leads us, but I should not rush that process.
The third thing is allow myself to dream. Any season of waiting should have hope. Even when the waiting is during a trial. We can hope and dream about the return of a prodigal child, healing from sickness, salvation of a loved one, a new job, etc. Our hopes and dreams bring passion and determination to our prayers. I find that allowing myself to dream drives me to intimacy with God as I reveal my heart to Him and my hope in Him. Dreams can help a season of waiting become not only bearable but also, possibly enjoyable as we consider what could be.
Last but not least, to hold on to Him. As we go through the next 18-24 months, as dreams start to become more defined, and options start to be more focused, we will develop plans. Naturally, we will want those plans to become more concrete the longer we are in this process so that we have something firm to hold onto. However, rarely do our plans end up going exactly as we envision. If I hold on to them too tighty and they change even so very slightly, the fruit of this season can shrivel up as I wallow in the disappointment of unmet expectations. Yet, if I hold firmly on to Him and allow Him to direct our steps, then no matter what changes happen to the plans, I have an anchor to hold me steady. And this can turn out being a season of strengthened faith, deepening relationships, and sweet memories.