With God, like all great comedians, it’s all about the timing.
For us who appreciate the divine act, it’s all about waiting.
Zechariah and Elizabeth knew about waiting. For years, they prayed for a child.
Children were thought a blessing, and the lack of blessing, a curse. Childless, they lived in the shadows of shame.
Finally, one day when Zechariah was offering incense in the sanctuary, an angel appeared in the fragrant haze.
He said, as angels are wont to, “Be not afraid.” Then he revealed to Zechariah the improbable and unbelievable. Their barrenness had run its course. Their waiting was over.
Waiting is no stranger in jails. It is what you do there — waiting for trial, waiting for judgement, waiting for transfer. When your life runs on someone else’s clock, you are always waiting on something.
In the tangle of anger and depression of waiting in jail, you’ll find Elizabeths and Zechariahs who long for something they want, but they are really waiting on God.
The other night, we had a lively discussion of a passage in Mark about the “days after the tribulation,” when the sun goes dark and stars fall from the sky. When it came to endings, we could all agree that only God knows the day or the hour.
We closed with prayer. After lifting up the children and their mothers, the sick, and those about to be sentenced, a new voice spoke.
This man, probably in his mid-50s, had been quiet. He hadn’t uttered a word until then, when he said he wanted to thank God for his life.
He confessed he had spent years behind bars. He had done bad things, hurt some people, and driven his family away. Inside or out, he just wanted to be left alone.
Then something happened that thawed his frozen heart. He didn’t see an angel through wafting smoke, but he saw himself in all the failure, all the need, and all the goodness that he had buried long ago.
In touch with something deeper, he, like Elizabeth, could feel new life inside.
Tears started running down his cheeks. Unashamed, he let them flow. No one made fun of him.
There were others with wet eyes — burly tattooed types and skinny men with meth-affected teeth. Either they had been through what he had, or they desperately wanted that moment.
Maybe Isaiah was right: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you. ... Blessed are those who wait on the Lord.”