photo courtesy of Pixabay

Today I sit in the waiting room. It’s pretty typical in most respects… rows of matching chairs, receptionist at the front desk, and tables with out-of-date magazines. The walls, however, lack the typical non-descript “art” intended (I think) to have a calming effect on the waitees. Instead, four large, toothy muskies hang on the walls, seemingly swimming through mid-air. Toothy seems consistent with a dental office. And stuffed fish, well, this is Wisconsin. Most of the men want to display their “trophies”, and most of their wives don’t want that “dead stuff” in the house. I’m guessing that’s how the stuffed fish ended up here.

I sit, waiting for my name to be called. I pass the time somewhat restlessly, writing to the serenade of high-pitched drills and airy suction tubes. An oldies station unsuccessfully attempts to disguise the sounds down the hall. It’s not that I mind going to the dentist. When I’m in the chair all is well. In fact, I’m often tempted to sleep.  (Those are about the most comfortable chairs known to man. Do they make them for home use?) It’s the waiting I could live without.

This is not the only waiting room I’m in right now. God has me in His spiritual waiting room. He is nurturing and preparing me for what lies ahead. I’m between appointments… marking time… trying to use it wisely, trying to do the things which honor God (though some days are definitely better than others). My soul is restless. I’m eager to move on, to continue my journey with Jesus. I’m having a hard time fleshing out Psalm 40:1, “I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined to me, and heard my cry.”

Of course, I’m in good company! Joseph sat in the waiting room of an Egyptian prison for a number of years before becoming Pharaoh’s right-hand man. David sat in the waiting room of a cave, hiding from Saul’s murderous ways, before ascending to the throne. And Moses’s waiting room was Midian, where he spent 40 years hanging out with the sheep before leading Israel out of Egypt. (At least my waiting room is comfortable!) These great patriarch’s were human, too. I’d like to believe they’d understand my restless impatience.

The last time God called me out of the waiting room, He took me through a time of incredible growth, complete with some growing pains. I learned about helping other people walk through life’s trials, face life’s challenges, and mourn life’s losses. I learned about my own shortcomings and sins. I learned a great deal about my God. All that I gained made the wait worthwhile… but the waiting I could live without.

Chicken Run

Today when I take the chickens their daily rations, my big Brahma hen tries to lead a prison bust, making a break for the door with half the flock at her heels. I dutifully block the doorway. A stiff north wind rushes down through the pine grove and across the small pasture (if you can call the unique blend of weeds growing out there pasture). The snow isn’t exactly “falling.” It’s racing horizontally across the barnyard, endlessly restless.

When we first moved to the farm, my cousin snuck through the yard and left eleven feathered friends in our newly-acquired coop (despite our protests). Had he not always been one of my favorite cousins, we might have protested more loudly. We knew nothing about keeping poultry.

We learned that first winter that chickens are prone to pneumonia… and that their combs freeze and turn black… and that their eggs freeze and crack. The coop was large and the flock was small. Even heat lamps couldn’t combat the cold. Nearly half of our layers died.

So, today I keep my ward of two dozen layers, and the body heat they’ve generated, imprisoned. Well, that’s how they see it anyway. They’re accustomed to their freedom, wandering through the yard at their leisure, consuming anything not fenced off. They resent their boundaries. However, today doing what they want will put them in harm’s way and could even prove deadly. If only they understood I’m trying to protect them. Of course, that would be expecting a great deal from a creature whose brain could fit inside a ping pong ball with ample room to spare.

I leave food and water in their cell and bolt the door behind me. The wind grabs me from behind and shoves me toward the house. As I race along with the snow, God calls me to consider how chicken-like I often am.

Like the chickens, I grow accustomed to my freedom, wandering about aimlessly doing what I please, saying what I please, eating what I please, spending money as I please… whenever I please. Yes, a few small fences keep me from total indulgence, but there is so much out there to feed the flesh: media, music, entertainment, gossip, endless and meaningless chatter, junk food, lazing about, obsession with our physical appearance, new décor, better and faster technology, big toys, little toys, you know, stuff.  Stuff that, when left unchecked, will put me in harm’s way and may even prove deadly.

So, God gives me boundaries. He makes His will known in the living Word, the Bible. His commandments are life-giving. When I walk in obedience to them, His boundaries protect me from Satan’s fiery darts, and free me from my own flesh’s desires (both of which are hell-bent on my demise). David captured the paradox so well in Psalm 119:44-45, “So I will keep Your law continually, forever and ever.  And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.” I enjoy the greatest freedom when I willingly submit to God’s lordship… when I walk in obedience.

Too often I’m like that silly bird, foolishly trying to escape God’s protective care under the delusion I’m a prisoner. I try to make a break for it, knowing that satisfying me is a great deal of fun. Well, at least for a while.  Then I begin to see sin taking its toll on my body and soul, putting me in harm’s way and leading me toward death. If only I understood He is trying to protect me. Intellectually I do understand, but my choices often betray my heart.

If my brain could fit inside a ping pong ball with ample room to spare, running after my own desires would be understandable. I’d just be following my natural instincts.  But unlike my hen, I’m created in the image of God.  I have the ability to discern my options and the will to choose whom I will serve, my Friend or my foe.  I need strength and wisdom to use my freedom in Christ to the glory of God.