Our son is in love with the Muppet song. You know the one – the catchy “Mah Na Mah Na” that shows up in most of the movies? Yeah. He loves it.
When a preschooler falls in love with a song, it ends up on repeat for hours. I used to like this song. I used to like a lot of songs, until they got burned so deeply into my brain I will still be singing them when I’m 101 years old and so deep in the throes of dementia that I don’t even remember my children’s names.
Nursing home attendant: “Courtney, your son is here to see you!”
Me: “Who? BOB the Builder! CAN WE FIX IT? BOB the Builder! YES, WE CAN!”
It helps that he likes to dance to the ever-playing Muppet song, and that watching him dance is pretty much the best thing ever. A dancing preschooler is the most uninhibited, adorable little person. They have no shame. They don’t worry about what they look like. They just dance–arms flung wide, feet tapping, body spinning, face to the sky.
The best part of his current Muppet dance is that this song has bouncy moments and quiet moments, and in the quiet moments he just stops dancing. He freezes and waits, with bated breath, for the bouncy music to start up again. It’s a display of incredible patience from a three year old. A kid who usually can’t wait more than a few seconds (“Mooooooom! I need a snaaaaaaaaaaack! I’m sooooooooo hungry right noooooooow!”) waits with absolute stillness for the music to start up again.
He waits so happily because he knows he’s right on the cusp of the good part – that the dancing can commence in just another few seconds. Knowing what lies ahead, he can wait with joy.
Me? I hate waiting. I relate to Inigo Montoya.
I hate waiting for Easter. Lent is sad and painful. Its constant reminders of Christ’s suffering make my heart ache. Its call to wait for the events of Holy Week to unfold in all their haunting pain, without rushing ahead to the story’s happy ending feels longer every year. It’s necessary and important and holy and sacred and I do not like it, Sam I Am.
I hate waiting for this baby. He or she is basically fully cooked now, but my labor could still be weeks away. In the meantime, Braxton-Hicks contractions keep me up most nights, and I struggle against crankiness in these sleep-deprived, physically exhausted days. It seems unfair that the weeks leading up to welcoming a new baby can often be so draining. I want to be at my best to welcome this new wee one; I want to savor the last days of our son’s only-child time; and instead I’m stomping around like a T-Rex with a crampy uterus, watching too much Netflix, and passing off our son to Grandma and Grandpa for playdates so I can nap.
Waiting is hard. Most of us hate it, don’t we? It can seem purposeless. It can seem torturous. If something good will happen, we wonder, why not now? What possible benefit could there be in it taking a long time? Why would instant gratification be so terrible?
Put more theologically: Why does God often insist upon making us wait?
In Psalm 13, the author laments:
How long, O Lord?
Thank goodness the Psalmist puts into words what so many of us have felt at one time or another. The Psalms are great at giving permission to turn our deepest feelings into prayers. Apparently the ache of waiting isn’t just a modern problem.
In his enduring classic, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes about trusting God in the midst of waiting:
“I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do enter your room, you will find that the long wait has done you some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light…” –C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I often camp out as I wait. It’s easier to turn off my head and my heart and just endure. But as Lewis points out, there are lessons to be learned in the waiting. Lessons that will not and cannot be learned any other way. We must keep praying for light. We must look for God in the wait, for he is there.
We–all of us–wait. We wait for the right guy or girl to come along. We wait for our kids to be born, to start school, to go to college, to call. We wait for the doctor to let us know the results. We wait for the hiring committee to get back to us. We wait for retirement. We wait for the end.
We only rush things to our own peril. We can’t force God’s hand, and we risk missing out on the grace he offers us in the wait.
We must learn to trust that because of God’s great love for us, there is purpose in the waiting, whatever type it may be. Days between the desire for something and its fulfillment are not wasted days. There are good things still to come that will be even more good because they have been given at the right time.
We can pause in our dancing because the song will start up again before we know it.
As Sarah Bessey wrote a couple of years ago:
Sometimes the only thing left to do is simply hold on to each other, pray, and dance in the darkness, waiting for the light.
Knowing what lies ahead, we can wait with joy.
Mah na mah na.