On Saturday I waited in a crowd at the airport International Arrivals gate. Our numbers grew, as did our wait time, but we weren’t unhappy. True, we were all a bit anxious—various members of our group kept popping up onto our toes and craning our necks to see down the corridor—but it was the good kind of anxious.
At one point I caught a blur in my peripheral vision. A boy of perhaps 10, dressed up in black slacks and a pink-hued button-down ran from the crowd to launch himself into the arms of an older woman clothed in a long black dress and headscarf. The little guy was equal parts smiles and tears. I’m not ashamed to say I got a little misty-eyed as I watched them enveloped by a large family near us, the boy never leaving the woman’s side.
Then I watched an impeccably dressed gentleman with flowers embrace his lovely wife, and a scruffy-faced backpacker arrive to scan the crowd until he spotted his parents. At last our group of families erupted into cheers as several rumpled teens finally came through the corridor. I decided International Arrivals must rank second only to the maternity waiting room at the hospital for the mixture of anticipation and sudden outbursts of joy.
Of course, not every person there could have been having a happy reunion that day. For some, this was a routine trip for work. Another day. Another dollar.
For others, this may have been a trip toward pain, loss, sorrow. That is the way of life, isn’t it?
And it’s one of the reasons I love the honesty of the Psalms. Exuberance is juxtaposed with anguish as the writers distill the life of faith into poetry and song. Not every psalm ends neatly resolved with a “Rah, Rah! Our side wins!” That’s ok because not every season of our life is neatly resolved either.
Yet, there is an electric current running through the whole book that never ceases to inspire me: it’s a contagious courage. Even if it’s the courage to be honest with God about fear and doubt, it’s a faithfulness to trust that He is as masterful at calming overwhelming emotions as in parting the Red Sea.
I’ve been reading through Psalm 27 lately, and I see David wrestle with himself over fear, betrayal, the realities of war, and the questions of whether God hears him and cares for him in the midst of the hard times. I’m not sure the song even ends in a major key with all the answers in place. You don’t make statements like, “When my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take care of me” if you just had a pleasant family dinner with Mom and Pop.
But despite the tension of all that is unresolved, David ends with this, perhaps as much to galvanize his own faith as to instruct the rest of us:
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD! Psalm 27:13-14
In the land of the living. Now. In this world where happiness is often mingled with grief.
And that word wait? It’s not waiting at a railroad crossing, gripping the steering wheel because you’re late for work. Or rolling your eyes in the DMV line because bureaucracy is for the birds. It’s definitely not waiting in a cold sweat by the phone to find out if your worst nightmare has come true.
It’s that good kind of waiting where you pop up on your toes and crane your neck because you don’t want to miss the One you love when He arrives, bursting on the scene, showering you with gifts and the gift of His presence.
That kind of waiting demands taking whatever small amount of “good courage” you have and choosing to take your stand to believe. Then, as you exercise whatever human-kind-of-courage you’ve got, the Spirit of the Living God rushes in to “strengthen your heart” with God-sized courage. It demands an exclamation mark – “Wait, I say, on the LORD!” – because it’s born from hope in an Everlasting and Ever-loving Father,
Who will make all things new,
Who will set all things right,
Who will wipe away every tear.
Yes, in part right now in “the land of the living,” but then forevermore. Let’s be the ones who choose to keep waiting and be brave, to look out for our God – He’s coming!