On Saturday I stood waiting in a crowd.
Our numbers grew, time lengthened, but we were not unhappy. True, we were all a bit anxious, a bit tired, but you would have seen various ones of us continue to pop up onto our toes and crane our necks to see down the corridor, hopeful looks on our faces.
At one point I caught a blur in my peripheral vision. A boy of perhaps 10 or 12, dressed up in black slacks and a pink-hued button-down ran from the crowd and around the metal barrier to launch himself into the arms of a 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, too, shed a few happy tears as I watched them enveloped by a larger family near us, the boy never leaving the woman’s side.
We watched some version of that scene play out over and over in the course of an hour at the airport’s International Arrival lobby:
A gentleman with flowers awaiting his love.
A scruffy-faced backpacker arriving to scan the crowd for his parents.
A group of families cheering as our rumpled teens finally came through the corridor.
I decided this ranked 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 forever 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. It’s not rolling your eyes in the DMV line because bureaucracy is for the birds. It’s not waiting in a cold sweat by the phone to find out if your worst nightmare has come true.
It’s the kind of waiting that’s keeping watch, going up on toes and craning your neck, because any minute the One you love is coming down that arrival corridor, bursting on the scene, showering you with gifts and the gift of His presence.
It’s the kind of waiting that demands taking whatever small amount of “good courage” you have and choosing to take your stand to believe.
It’s the kind of waiting that finds in that exercise of human-kind-of-courage that the Spirit of the Living God rushes in to “strengthen your heart” with God-sized courage.
It’s the kind of waiting that 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!