I’ve just missed my train. I stepped onto the platform and my train pulled away, with me still stood on the platform, heavily breathing from the running I just endured and in a very ‘un-British’ way, shouting: “No!” at the quickly disappearing train. I was gutted. Not only the thought of potentially having to buy another ticket – which as a penniless freelancing artist is devastating! – but also the thought of waiting a short 30 mins for the next train which actually feels like a lifetime away. This ‘time void’ in between rushing from one event to the other suddenly got very frustrating.
As a freelance actor and writer I’m no stranger to these moments of waiting. I like to call them the transition period. The days, weeks and sometimes months where I’m mourning the project that has just finished and waiting for the next one to start or even turn up.
Recently, I’ve been really challenged about how God can use these times of waiting. Are we given them for a reason? The season of quiet, peace, a time for listening to him, for re-assessing the roadmap He has given me in my life. I’m the type of person who can get fidgety when I’m not doing anything. but in these times of stopping and realigning, I’ve actually made some of the biggest and most important decisions in my life.
The author of Ecclesiastes – believed to be Solomon – writes about how there is a time for everything. “A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.” (Ecclesiastes 3:5-6) This feels so apt for the transition period. The period of waiting, the calm in between the storms. Could we simply say that there is a time to go and a time to stop?
Near the end of this book, the teacher goes on to talk about the uncertainties of life. He uses an example of how the farmers who wait for perfect weather will never plant. This transition period can be draining, when you feel you are waiting for the next thing or for the right time to start your next project. Do you have enough funding? Are your ideas good enough or big enough? Are you surrounded by the right people? Solomon is basically saying just go for it! Plant your seed and see what happens.
He again uses the example of the farmer and the seed: “Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another – or maybe both.” (Ecclesiastes 11: 6). I see this as active waiting. We aren’t called to be passive in this period of transition, but to be on the front foot. Planting as many seeds as we can and waiting to see which ones God helps to grow. I think it is down to us to do a bit of work too. I think we’re the gardener, but God owns our garden.
In this transition period, it’s frustrating when doors close on you. I’ve been in a position many times where I’ve really felt excited about a new project that I want to start or a new relationship that it would be great to build, but these things have just not worked out. Lets see it as, being still on that train, but when you arrive at the station the doors are faulty, and you can’t get off. The train carries on. This is extremely frustrating, but there is always a reason. That station was not the right station for me at that time. We may never find out why, but God knows the reason.
Again in Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes: “Everything has already been decided. It was known long ago what each person would be. So there’s no use arguing with God about your destiny.” (6:10). God knows the right path for us. It can be frustrating when we think there is a better way, but the station God is taking us to is much richer and far more exciting. God says: “I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11). Could there be any more reassurance that God has got this and even our transitioning is in His hands?
Watching paint dry can be seen as a horribly boring thing to do, but actually it can be one of the most beautiful. Time goes by and you can see how colours previously stroked onto the page begin to blend. The colour gets richer as it dries from a patchy mess into the perfect shade. It’s in this waiting and resting that God can work in us, helping us to see what is good and realign. This can be a great time for us to step back and look at the bigger picture, to remember our creator as we are creating.
I want to make one thing clear: I don’t think this time is stagnant waiting, but rather a time for present recharging. A place for us to begin to have new vision, new ideas, refresh our creativity and get excited about the next season. Transition can be the most beautiful thing of all. So, now as I’m sat on this train, arriving at my destination thirty minutes late, I’m lapping in the beautiful sights of the rolling hills, appreciating the beauty that comes in between my destinations, feeling a lot more rested and gathered than the slightly flustered me that was stood on Platform 15 an hour ago!