February 5, 2012
“Waiting, Running, Walking ”
Rev. Dr. David A. Davis
“Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted.” Weary. Weary. The psalmist writes “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood by bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.” Weary. The biblical writer of II Samuel tells how when Israel was yet again at war with the Philistines, how David, even David, the mighty warrior, how David “grew weary.” Way back in Genesis, as Rebekah and Isaac were realizing that the challenge of parenting was just as hard once the twins grew up (Esau and Jacob), Rebekah was in angst that her favorite child would marry the wrong girl. She said to Isaac, “I am weary of my life because of all these Hittite women.” Weary. It can mean so many things.
When a very young child falls asleep right there in the high chair with a face full of spaghetti and a head nodding like one of those bobble heads, when sleep finally wins, that’s not weary. When the runner finishes the trek along the tow path on a Saturday morning after a long week in the office, and the knees hurt and the lungs are screaming and the endorphins are racing; that’s something but it’s not weary. After cranking to finish that final paper, more than burning the midnight oil, on a topic that really energized, as the words came with a flourish, the argument came together, and with a strike of the key the last assignment of the semester is turned in, a cry of “yes” rolls down the hall. Thirteen straight hours of sleep is about to come, but that’s not weary. Weary carries its own set of connotations.
After an absolutely grinding day of work, or of people, or of family, when tomorrow will just be another yesterday, and the fall into the chair comes with a heaving sigh fit for someone three times, five times, ten times the age. That’s weary. The older saint among us who still takes the news of the world at 6:30 there in front the television with no one but God in the room. The events of the day, the state of the world, story after story just makes the head shake and the shoulders slump even more. “Wheel of Fortune” can’t start soon enough. That’s weary. When worry for a child, or a parent, or a partner fills the day and robs the night and helplessness doesn’t begin to describe the inability to fix or make right or heal or end or change. Weary. Weariness comes with a context. It sort of demands its own explanation. If you’re weary, you and I know, it’s more than just being tired.
So when the people of God hear from the prophet Isaiah, when they hear “Even youths will faint and be weary and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be…weary…..they shall walk and not faint”, when the prophet speaks someone ought to ask about the weariness, about Isaiah and being weary. Biblical weariness is no different than all the other weariness. It comes with a context, with a story. The prophet’s “weary”; even youths will faint and be weary, weary. It can mean so many things.
Reading the poetry of Isaiah 40 is like hearing one side of an ongoing conversation between God and God’s people. To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with God? and Have you not known? Have you not heard? and To whom then you will compare me, who is my equal? and Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “my way is hidden from the Lord?... Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. The Lord does not faint or grow weary…
Do you think God is like and idol? Something a workman crafts or a goldsmith makes? God is the one who sits above the canvas of the earth. Everyone is just like a bug, a speck compared to the one who stretches out the heavens like a curtain. Royalty and nations are nothing compared to the Lord. When God breathes, they just wither and blow away. Look up and see, the host of stars in the night sky. Who created these? God numbers every one, knows them by name. Not one is missing. How can you say that your way is hidden from the Lord, that God disregards your right, your cause, your life? That God doesn’t care. Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. The Lord does not faint or grow weary. The Lord gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted, but those who wait for the Lord…
Weary. Weary for the prophet Isaiah is more than just being tired. Weary is believing that God doesn’t see, can’t see, or doesn’t care about your life. Weary is thinking or living or acting like God has nothing to do with you. Weary is ignoring, missing, denying the thread that connects you and the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. Weary is being convinced of the silent ignorance of God based solely on the evidence of your own life; however full, complex, joyful, challenging that it is. Weary is what inevitably happens when you place yourself at the center of the universe and therefore come to all kinds of conclusions about the absence of God based upon what you think and see and feel and know. The prophet’s weariness is not about being tired. It’s about those moments in life when you are done with God and you think God is done with you.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, in his word I hope (Ps. 130). Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord (Ps. 27). Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary….walk and not faint. Not be weary. Wait. Wait and not be weary. Wait for the Lord.
Waiting. It can mean so many things. For the prophet, for the psalmist, waiting can’t just be about patience, or the absence of doing. Waiting here is a kind of self-emptying. A selfless waiting purely for someone else. Like sitting there in the dark, your presence illuminated by nothing other than the night light. So the child can still know you’re there just by lifting her head and looking over. Like sitting with a friend in the surgical waiting room during his wife’s surgery and talking about nothing, talking about everything for however long it takes. The kind of waiting that’s not about you but about the other, not about you about the relationship. The prophet’s waiting is about spending the time allotted in acknowledging that it’s not all about you. That God’s promised presence is so vast and marvelous and powerful that it actually has very little to do with your ability to comprehend it. It’s kind of strange really, when it comes to God; realizing it’s all about God, not you, in order to come to know that God is all for you. The God who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, who counts all the stars by name, that same God is the one who made you, who loves you, whether you know it, believe it, or accept it. No matter how weary you are.
Just last week Cathy and I were out to dinner and I found myself fascinated by the communication agreement of the couple at nearby a table just over Cathy’s shoulder. They would talk and engage one another, in quite an intense, even romantic way across the table. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I would see them both on their phones texting or playing a game or maybe checking to see what year Casablanca came out, I don’t know. Then, in a moment, they would be back in typical dinner conversation. Then back at their phones, like a whistle was blowing or something. A unique, I guess agreed upon, communications plan for a relationship. It made me think of how years ago, we would see older couples out to eat, barely speaking to one another, sharing the meal, lots of silence.“We’ll never be like that” we would say in our youthful enthusiasm for one another. Now 25 years later, I know a wordless meal shared can mean everything, can communicate love and promise in a relationship more than I ever imagined. I know longer assume that the folks at the next table who sit in silence can’t wait for the meal, or the date, or the relationship to end. It might be a whole different kind of waiting; a wordless, yet promise filled taking and eating and lifting, almost sacramental part of a lifelong relationship.
My gut tells me that folks don’t very often talk about what they are thinking, praying, dreaming about when holding a small piece of bread or a little cup of juice; as the servers move through the room; what comes to mind before someone says “the body of Christ broken for you”. I imagine that most of us find ourselves contemplating all that Christ has done for us; mercy, forgiveness, love, strength, salvation. What God has done for us; the little stuff, the big stuff. Its not that easy to come to this table and ponder the mercy, grace, mystery, magnitude, steadfast love of God without me smack in the middle! But here the prophet’s word ought to stick and stir and gnaw at us a bit, that it isn’t all about you. That God’s promised presence is so vast and marvelous and powerful that it actually has very little to do with your ability to comprehend it.
Here at this meal, taking, eating, lifting….a sacramental part of a lifelong relationship. Here at this table, a kind of waiting, a self-emptying kind of waiting. A kind of waiting that’s not about you, but about the other. Not me Lord, but you. Here at this table, in one of those moments when you are done with God and you think God is done with you, Still, a silent meal filled with promise.
Jesus said, Come unto me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.
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