When I was in college, I started writing a fantasy novel. Because I worked full-time during the day and attended college at night, I had to snatch time to work on it between bites of lunch and even sometimes during class. For sixteen years I’ve been working on this novel with the hope that one day it would get published.
This has not happened yet.
In 2004, I gave birth to a healthy boy. My previous two pregnancies had ended in miscarriage, and I had grown fearful that I would never have children. My son’s birth, on Mother’s Day no less, rooted me in the knowledge that God was faithful. Soon enough, hope that we would have another child to share our love and joy with began to blossom within me again.
This has not happened yet either.
Waiting and Wondering
In this month of Advent, our thoughts usually turn to Jesus and Mary. Yet lately I’ve found that I’m more drawn to Elizabeth. Perhaps it’s because I’m older. Or maybe it’s because I know what it’s like to yearn for something and then to see days, months, years pass without having that yearning fulfilled.
I know what it’s like to think, Maybe this isn’t God’s will.
Or, Maybe I’m not believing in God hard enough.
Or even, It’s not going to happen. I should give this up and move on with my life.
Certainly Zechariah had given up on being a father. When Gabriel told him in the temple that Elizabeth would bear a child, he couldn’t believe it. And who could blame him? Why would God, after years and years of being silent, choose to bless them with a child now?
I love Gabriel’s response to him in TheMessage translation: “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time” (Luke 1:19-20, italics mine).
Dreadlocks and Desires
When I decided to become a professional writer, I wanted to do something that expressed this new identity. Originally I was going to get a tattoo, but I realized that dreadlocking my hair was a better metaphor for the vocational change. Dreadlocking is a long process—it takes about a year for hair to settle into the ropelike strands. There were times when I would look at my frizzy hair and think, Am I even doing it right? This is not how I pictured it would look. Maybe I should start over . . .
At some point, my hair became less a symbol of my writing and more about God’s timing in my life. I found myself thinking back to when I was in college, taking what felt to me like pointless class after pointless class, wondering if I would ever graduate, if I’d even be able to use the journalism skills I was gaining (which I couldn’t have cared less about at the time). I had no sense of the future then—only a vague idea of what I would like to do, which didn’t match up with what I was presently doing.
The day-to-day monotony, the yearning for something I did not have yet—God saw it and honored it, but on his time, not mine. It’s that waiting in-between that kills us, and yet that is where God is working the most. All we have to do is be faithful to him, no matter what happens.
And, even when God does answer those yearnings, he often does it in unexpected ways. Look at Elizabeth—she finally gets a child in her old age who proceeds to go live in the desert and eat grasshoppers. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. Elizabeth still submits to God’s will, and her submission is just as important as Mary’s.
Choosing to Wait Well
I don’t know for certain if I’ll have another child. Maybe my husband and I will adopt, or maybe our energy will go into raising other “children” (or, in my case, caring for my in-laws who live with us). But in the meantime, I’ll enjoy my son, loving his presence and his laughter while raising him up in the truth.
I do know at some point I’ll finish my novel, but that still won’t guarantee it will get published. All I can do is continue working on it, with hope. Day by day, I am learning to be like Elizabeth: to wait, to be faithful, and to enjoy each day as it comes, knowing that it’s all good according to God.
LaShawn M. Wanak lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband, son, and in-laws. Luckily, she has an office with a door that locks. She has been involved with InterVarsity since 1989 and currently works at the National Service Center in Human Resources.
You might also be interested in Luke 1 Perspectives from Steven and Lisa.