Making The Most of Your Wait
What is with American culture and waiting? We spend thousands of hours waiting: in line at the grocery store, for a response text, or until we've saved enough money to buy that thing we have wanted for a long time (car, house, or newest electronic gadget). Then we have life's BIG waits: dating, engagement, marriage, and children.
Sadly, waiting seems to be as integral to the human experience as the event itself. Instead, it's how we wait that may matter the most vs. the experience we've been waiting for. Sometimes waiting can feel almost like suffering; the agony and deferred dreams that accompany it can leave us feeling helpless and hopeless, but maybe that's just me.
When you speak to students and youth today, many live their lives as if they’re on hold. I've spoken to numerous students, both male and female, who make decisions on who they are, what they will look like, and their goals based on their estimation of what their future spouse or partner might want. Many times I've heard students say something to the effect of, "I need to be … because my future spouse will want that." Many are not dating anyone, so these decisions are based on people that aren’t currently a part of their lives.
As parents, pastors, and leaders, we need to communicate to our children and students that they cannot live their lives in a holding pattern. Living in a holding pattern is dangerous because many times, what we are waiting for becomes what we put our hope in. Understand that only God can bear the weight of our hope. No person, place, or thing can endure that; meaning if that's what we are doing, we will end up disappointed. Instead, we need to challenge them to think counter-culturally and make the most of their waiting period.
So, how do we do this? We encourage our students to be mindful, self-evaluate, and we model this in our own lives. We encourage them to accept their current reality as it is but take a long-term view. There has to be an understanding that their future selves are shaped by their life experiences and numerous challenges that they will learn through. To prepare for that, they need to root themselves in Christ and their identity must be found in him. They cannot know what they need if they first don't know who and whose they are.
We need to encourage our students and children to discover who they are, what kind of person they long to be, and what is unique about them before they pursue someone long-term. We must teach them to examine their God-given gifts and think critically to discover what they love and value. Taking time to understand some of the principles below will help in this journey.
1.) You are powerful: Students today hear the consistent messages that they are too young, not intelligent, or immature. It's vastly important we communicate that they live in an exciting time where they get to determine who they will become. They are in a power position to make changes in their life, to understand who they are and what they truly want.
2.) You are valuable: The voice of shame is prevalent within the minds and hearts of students today. Many believe they are broken, a mistake, or something is inherently wrong with them. It's our job as parents, pastors, and leaders to communicate that nothing could be further from the truth. Matthew 10:29 says, "What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows." We are all valuable to God; each of us was created with unique characteristics, talents, and giftings by God with purpose and intention.
3.) You are significant: God has a plan for them; he made each of them with a purpose. Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." They are not a mistake. God has plans to give them hope and a future, and they have a role to play. They are not small, unimportant, or insignificant. It's how we shepherd what God has given us that matters the most.
Finally, let’s help our youth understand that their beliefs can change the world around them. Our job as leaders and mentors is to help our children navigate this journey for themselves. If they make the most of their "wait” and utilize this time wisely, they will have a great opportunity to learn more about who God created them to be and grow in that direction. We must help our students understand that their identity is not based around who they marry, what relationship they’re in, or how many kids they’ll have one day. Instead, their identities need to be established around God, knowing full well he had a purpose when he made them with unique spirits, minds, emotions, giftings, and personalities. They can rest assured that God is with them and guiding them as they trust in him, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deut. 31:8 NLT