Learning To Wait

But those who wait on 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.  Isaiah 40:31

Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!  Psalm 27:14

I hate waiting.  I don't like waiting in line at a store or drive through, getting stuck behind a slow driver on a road where I can't pass, I don't like waiting more than 2 days for an amazon.com purchase to arrive, and I especially don't like having to wait to make plans for what I want to do with my life!   However, there is apparently a great blessing in patiently waiting for God's timing in our lives, and looking back through the blogs I have written I see that this is the second title with the word "wait" in it and my references to this being a long journey also imply waiting.  It seems that God has been trying to teach me to wait throughout this entire process.  Despite that I am admittedly still struggling with this four letter word, WAIT.

When I went to the doctor this past Monday I was feeling the best I had felt all along, and coming on the heels of FINALLY getting to physically preach at church, and being able to do so without having to sit on a stool, I felt ready to get what was hopefully going to be my last week of chemo out of the way and then get on with life!!   I told my oncologist I was feeling a lot stronger and how the gastroenterologist had taken me off my stomach prescriptions.   He said that's wonderful, however, "your white blood count is too low to do chemo this week."  He turned his computer around and showed a graph of how my last chemo treatment had knocked down my white blood cells and although they were coming up he said it wouldn't be safe to hit me with a week of chemo this week.  I was floored.   I had already been planning out what I could do 10 days after my week of chemo (10 days is the time period the immune system is the weakest after the last day of chemotherapy) and pushing my treatment back a week was messing with my schedule!!    The doctor did say he wanted to schedule a CT scan before I had any further treatment after the next week to see if the cancer has either gone or shrunk sufficiently to not need any additional treatment.  I was glad to hear that but I still felt frustrated by the delay.   As I have said before I'm a planner and this was messing with my plans!

So... I came back home after my Monday appointment and tried to figure out what to do with my week.  I was able to move some things at work that were scheduled for the following week to this week but I still felt frustrated.  It was then that the voice of God began to speak to my heart and remind me that my timing was often not the same as His and that I STILL had much to learn about living day by day and not planning so many details for the future as if I really knew what was going to happen!!   The importance of the "sabbath" came back to mind again and even though keeping it as a weekly day of rest is one of the 10 commandments I still find myself struggling to honor it.    So.. with God's help, I took a deep breath and began to pray about what it meant to really "wait for God."  

As I prayed, one of the first things that came to mind was something that I had shared with my congregation on Sunday.   Steve Covey wrote a book years ago called "7 Habits of Highly Effective People."  Habit 3 is "put first things first."  He identifies four quadrants of how we spend our time:  Urgent & important; urgent and not important; not important and not urgent; and important but not urgent.   It is the last category that we tend to overlook the most.  Things we know are important but are not urgent like spending time with family, working on a hobby, pursuing additional training in our field, learning an instrument, reading a book.   With some time on my hands I began to make a list of things that were "important but not urgent" that I had overlooked in my life.    I was ashamed to see some of things that contributed to that list, things like: 1) get my citizenship (I've lived in the US over 35 years and still just have a green card); 2) write a book (I've been wanting to do that since I was a teenager); 3) Play the piano (I've even taken lessons on that but not followed through); 4) Go on bike rides with my family (we have the best bikes but probably haven't ridden together more than twice in the last 3 years).   In general I began to realize that I was filling so much of every day with pressing things at work or church but wasn't taking time for other important things that I could put off to another day.   I am also beginning to understand more that my children don't need me just be there for scheduled events (I'm good at those) but they need me to be around them on a regular basis when there is nothing planned and I'm just "there" with them.  That's how the best memories and conversations happen, when they are not planned but just organically happen in the moment.  I know much of this in my head but I believe that through this time in my life God is trying to get it through to my heart.   A wise woman shared with me recently that she had always prayed when she came through a serious struggle in her life that God would "refine her calling" and that she would not go back to the way she was before but would have learned something through the hard place that caused her to face life in a different way.  

I am seeing that one of the main lessons I need to learn through this long journey I have been on is to see the value of waiting, in just "being," and learning to spend time on things that are not urgent but are very important.    I've heard it said that "no one on their death bed says they wished they had spent more time at the office".   I don't want to live my life focusing all my energy on being very productive in ways that don't really matter to those I love the most.   I remember reading in my textbook for my ministerial ethics class that for the children of a pastor if he is gone every night with meetings and visitation to his kids he might as well be at the bar every night, to them it is the same, he is not THERE.    I want to truly learn to live more in the moment, day by day, and value the time spent waiting without trying to fill with more scheduled things, and understand that the delays are part of God's plan too.  I can't say it will be easy for me, as I have been a workaholic for most of my life but I believe I am truly understanding the importance of it now, and with God's help I will come out of this journey of cancer having changed my priorities in life and in turn it will become more full and meaningful both to me and to those closest to me.   Please pray for me that I can change in this way and I will pray that God will strengthen you in your areas of weakness as well.

I do appreciate your prayers as I (hopefully) have my 3rd week of chemo next week.   I'm not looking forward to how it hits my body, but I will be glad to have it behind me.   But... if for some reason it is delayed again, with God's help I will accept it and find value in what the days bring regardless.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this week's blog.    I'm so humbled and honored by so many that take their time to read it each week. If this has blessed you please comment and share.    God bless.


Elaine Smythe - May 28th, 2021 at 12:52pm

Yes, Pastor, this message has, indeed, blessed me. More than that, it is making me take a long look at MY priorities. Praying for healing for you & that God will bless you with more & more wisdom as you draw closer to his heart!

Matthew Chapman - May 29th, 2021 at 8:20am

Thank you Elaine!! Praying that we always continue to learn & grow.

Jason - May 28th, 2021 at 1:30pm

Great read, and as an impatient planner who is always “busy” with work and school, it’s a great reminder! The verse from Isaiah 40:31 was a fantastic one to use here.

Very glad to hear that your health continues to improve - even if it’s not as quickly as you would like. I often tell my clients that progress is progress, no matter how small. Prayers for continued full recovery!

Matthew Chapman - May 29th, 2021 at 8:29am

Thanks Jason! It would be so much easier if everything in life was a “quick fix” but I’m learning that the things that take time can also teach us so much along the way. Great hearing from you. Hope all is well. God bless.

Jon Delp - May 28th, 2021 at 5:51pm

Love it, I struggle the same with waiting and having patience in general, but I have found time and time again that me being forced to wait was exactly what God wanted and needed to happen!

Matthew Chapman - May 29th, 2021 at 8:25am

Amen Jon!! I think the challenge for me is learning to welcome the wait rather than fight it. I’m not there yet but I’m seeing the importance of it. Love u my brother. God bless.

Richard Hilton - May 29th, 2021 at 8:30am

Thank you Pastor Matthew for another great insight. You are a blessing and your words are both inspiring and encouraging! Theresa and I love you!

Matthew Chapman - May 29th, 2021 at 8:34am

Thank you Pastor Richard for your encouragement now & throughout the years. Love you & pastor T!!

Barbara Taylor Price - May 29th, 2021 at 11:28am

Beautiful, I think you should write that book !

Matthew Chapman - May 29th, 2021 at 1:13pm

Thank you Barbara!!

Sydney Peltier - May 31st, 2021 at 6:25am

Waiting is no fun, especially when it’s in anticipation of all the good to be had in life! I loved your list of important things and I hope that courage, time, and health make all those things possible for you very soon!

Matthew Chapman - May 31st, 2021 at 9:00am

Thank you so much Sydney for taking the time to read & comment. That means so much. Praying for Gods blessings on your life today!!