In downtown Los Angeles across from a bar and around the corner from that one pet supply store, there is a bookshop that occupies the first two floors of a tall building that used to be a bank. The true embodiment of what a well rounded bookshop should be with a record section, a stage and it even has secret shelving units that open into smaller spaces, and of course that old book smell that lingers everywhere. The best part of this bookshop, however, has to be the vault. This is where the money was kept long ago, and now it holds literature (another source of great value). Upon first entering the vault one can't help but notice that in an instant, all goes quiet. The door is thick and the walls just the same, but that silence is unlike anywhere else. The stillness of this vault in this bookshop in this building in downtown LA is most definitely the exception to the bustling city outside, clamoring to make it's triumphant comeback. The hushed tones of this sacred space acts as an ever reminder of the lost art of waiting.
Isaiah 40:31 (NASB)
"Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary."
When the average person thinks about the concept of waiting (not the verb) the tendency is to think about a holding pattern, a place where time and space stop and unknown factors begin to fill in the void. Waiting isn't something we (human control freaks) tend to highlight in our day to day. Waiting is a much more passive action, one that requires well, nothing from us; or so we thought. Verse 31 of Isaiah 40 puts our understanding to shame when it points us toward new strength by way of waiting. This (as is with most things that God does) is at odds with our natural ways of understanding. We know strength building as pro-activity, as striving and straining and sweating our way towards our strength goals. But Isaiah is delivering a message to us that twists our understanding of the 'waiting game'.
As a nation (as a planet) we have been thrown into a natural man made waiting room. We never signed up for the appointment in the first place, we don't even know what to expect behind that door, but here we are in the waiting room just the same. We've seen some comply and stick to the instructions with great fortitude, while others have begun exiting the building, leaving their claw marks on the walls behind. In the same way as we understand challenges and adversity to call out the warrior within, the waiting room has an equal (sometimes greater) affect on our spirit. Jesus demonstrated this art form so many times while ministering to people, going up to the mountain alone or staying up all night while everyone slept or even while drawing on the ground with His finger; He showed us the immense importance of the silent places.
Psalm 46:10 (NKJ)
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!"
Now it may seem like a stretch to use this verse about stillness to guide us toward the knowledge of this particular TRUTH, after all we were just on a roll talking about waiting. Surely stillness and waiting are two different things. Stillness is an embodiment of being "one with the moment"; while waiting is an in between concept, right? The reality is that we cannot have one without the other and expect to gain anything substantial or life changing on the other side. Think about it, how many times have we heard people tell the story of receiving that which they had been waiting on (or standing in faith for); perhaps even we were the ones telling the story, and just as soon as their story begins, it ends with a, "then immediately the miracle came" no waiting necessary! More than likely that is NOT how those stories are told. Even in the bible there are spans of time in between the initial request and the manifestation of the request. Is this a coincidence?
We've spoken of Joseph in the past as being a stellar example of God's promises fulfilled and then some; but between the time that Joseph was in prison to the time that he became the right hand of Pharaoh; a decade (plus a few years) would go by. Talk about a waiting room! But equally as important, let's also talk about the stillness that he would have had to have been comfortable within in order to calm down his own emotions and thoughts, so that the first interpretation he would give of Pharaoh's dream would truly be that of God's. See, waiting is one thing, being still within that wait takes things to a whole new level. Exodus 14:14 "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."
As we comb through the scriptures, we see the pattern emerge of what it means to wait and to be still. They work together in tandem. As we wait, we are strengthened and renewed within; meanwhile, the stillness that we set our heart towards allows us to let go and let God take care of everything else around us.
Psalm 27:14 (CSB)
"Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Wait for the Lord."
Here's the deal, the times are only going to get stranger, more confusing and we are going to be less in control than ever before; but we have something that not everyone has. Not every bookshop has it's own personal vault. In a bookshop, a vault seemingly isn't a necessity, there isn't an obvious understanding of why a vault would be of any real value or use; in fact, no business in their right mind would spend the money, materials and time to put in a vault unless they had something that required the utmost security (and definitely NOT a bookshop, right?). But think of it like this, WE too have moved into a used space. When we begin a NEW CREATION type of life (2 Corinthians 5:17), we do it somewhere between our birth and our death, the space (our body) is a used location and depending on when our spirit took over (salvation), it was used for something entirely different to what we use it for today. We've also got a vault stuck right in the middle of our mixed use space and most days we pass it, maybe stick our head in and take a look around or perhaps we enter that space and the quiet freaks us out a little. We may not really know what to do with such an elaborate place, clearly built for something of great value and worth. The REALITY is that we HAVE something of great value and worth, it just doesn't seem to be what we think it should be.
Even as that bookshop vault served a purpose (metaphorically) as a secure place of peace and quietness to escape the chaos that is just a sidewalk away, the inner chambers of our "heart vault" have been designed by God to accommodate the same atmosphere that He is used to, in His Heavenly throne room. When God took on the job of setting up His bookshop on the inside of our vault, He intended to make a place for us to be still in His secure waiting room. As we wait for our heavenly bookshop owner to attend to us in His quiet place behind the massive doors of the vault, we can't help but notice that He's never put off or tired of our foot tapping and time checking (that's a really big lesson in and of it's self).
Our Father whom we aspire to be like doesn't ever ask of us anything that He doesn't apply Himself. Even God (in a human body) subjugated Himself to the principles of waiting and then moving at the speed and direction that He was led to by what He sensed was the will of His Father, that He perceived in the quiet of the stillness within the wait. One of the major catastrophe's of life can be seen in the underutilized, misunderstood significance of an empty vault.