Daryl Ellis is smart, handsome, thoughtful, and he loves Jesus, his family, California, and the UCLA Bruins (in that order). He married me nearly ten years ago, and being his wife and watching him be dad to our two boys is one of my life’s great joys. Welcome, Daryl!
Isaiah 65:17 (NIV)
See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
I confess: far too often my hope-filled Christian waiting (you know, the kind followers of Jesus are supposed to do) gets swallowed up.
What swallows it? A never-ending cycle of annoying things. Little daily irritations that always seem to get in the way. When those things settle down, then I’ll start with the real hoping again, right? Then I’ll learn to wait for Jesus to come.
I call this the “Waiting-for-Nothing” Trap.
“I’ll get back to hoping for big things,” I tell myself, “as soon as my eight-month-old stops barfing.” Cue another three days of sickness and sleeplessness. No time for hopeful waiting now.
Or: “I’ll get back to waiting in joyful expectation soon, but for now I have to tackle this insanely dirty kitchen again.” No time for thinking about the second coming of Jesus when I’m elbow-deep in dirty pots and pans. Better turn on some Netflix to pass the time.
Or: “God promises us new heavens and a new earth? That sounds fantastic, and I’ll meditate on that whole idea as soon as the neighbor smoking under our bedroom window (again) agrees to knock it off.” No time for thoughtful waiting tonight. Not when I have to head outside in my basketball shorts to have the “Please-Oh-Please-Stop-Smoking-Outside-Our-Bedroom-Window-These-Windows-Are-Old-And-Let-In-Everything” talk one more time.
If I’m honest, I’m not waiting for Jesus as much as I am waiting to wait for him. Waiting for these thousands of daily interruptions, daily tasks, daily labors, daily annoyances to stop.
At least in my heart, the trap of this temptation is that it causes me to focus on what is getting in my way instead of for the fulfillment of my true desire.
What I think I want are all these small things to get easier. What I really want is the true fulfillment of peace on earth. God created our hearts to wait for the joyful presence of good things, not merely the absence of the things that get in our way.
For this reason, I love that Isaiah’s grand vision of new heavens and a new earth in Isaiah 65 immediately opens up into a string of concrete examples of God-honoring things to wait for in hope:
- “I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy” (v. 18)
- “I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people” (v. 19)
- “They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit” (v. 21)
- “My chosen ones will enjoy the work of their hands” (v. 22)
- “The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.” (v. 25)
The way out of the Waiting-for-Nothing Trap is to ask God to reveal the positive cries for eternity that are stuck under our daily frustrations with each annoying interruption. By discovering those desires, we are then freed to wait for something in dependence upon someone (God!) who authored those desires in the first place.
Right beneath my desire for my son to stop barfing, there is a heart created to wait for a new earth with no sickness and no more pain (Rev. 21:4).
Right beneath my struggle for a perpetually clean kitchen, there is a heart created to wait for a God whose coming will be celebrated with a banquet I did not prepare (Rev. 19:9; Luke 14:15-24).
And right beneath the surface hoping my neighbors will stop filling our bedroom with smoke, there is a heart created to wait for a peaceful city in which fires are no longer necessary (!), “for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” (Rev. 21:23)
What little things cloud your vision of the big picture hope offered to you in Christ? How can you get in touch with the deep desires of your heart for him?
Daryl Ellis is an author, pastor, and resident nerd who loves a good swim, a real taco, and a thick theology book. He’s Rev. Dr., but is most proud of the title “Dad.” He and his wife are raising two boys in southern California.