Who likes to WAIT? “Waiting” recalls exasperating images of standing in a long queue at the post office or returning an item at Walmart. But I’ve been thinking about a different kind—a good kind of waiting spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “I will wait upon the Lord” (Isaiah 8:17). Making this verse personally relevant, I ask—What does it mean to WAIT upon the Lord? (1) I will wait upon the Lord like a server “waits” on a table in a restaurant. The server vigilantly watches the needs of his guests. When water glasses need refilling, he quickly steps up with a pitcher. He delivers piping hot food and clears away empty dishes afterward. He watches and attends his guests’ every need. I can WAIT upon the Lord by vigilantly observing and attending the needs of those around me. Waiting upon the Lord is to serve His children. (2) Waiting can also mean patience. The Lord’s answers come in His perfect timing, not always immediately. But I know that God loves me. He knows what is best for my growth and development better than I do. He is shaping me to become like Him. I am learning to trust His curriculum and His perfect love. I will WAIT upon the Lord in quiet service to others, and I will WAIT in patience for answers to my prayers.
Why is it so hard to notice our own spiritual progress? The reason: The effects are gradual and difficult to observe from day to day. For example, if I look at a photo taken of myself many years ago, I would notice a big difference as compared to now. But when I look in the mirror each morning getting ready for the day, I can’t see the subtle changes taking place. They aren’t obvious in 24-hour increments. I think that’s how it is with spiritual change. As I strive to keep the commandments, such as making time for scripture study, church and temple worship, offering kindness and service to others, change is happening even when I’m not aware of it. One way to observe this transformation is to keep a journal describing goals, challenges, and victories along the way. It’s like a photograph which can be viewed and reviewed. As I read entries from the past, I can see little signs of improvement. Some things I once struggled with have been conquered, and goals set years ago have been reached. Change is still subtle, and of course there are occasional setbacks and relapses. But as I yield to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, the Lord helps me put off the “natural man” little by little, step by step. God is in the process of recreating my nature to become like Him. I can see it and feel it. I feel progress like wind in my hair. This is a Reason to Rejoice!
Several people in the post office rushed to assist a woman maneuvering her husband’s wheelchair through a narrow doorway. The need was obvious and urgent. But I think there are many people who have hidden handicaps which are even more debilitating than physical ones. They are equally urgent but we don’t rush to help because we don’t see them. The physical eye cannot see emotional wounds or heavy burdens borne deep inside. This requires a different kind of vision which comes from whisperings of the Holy Ghost. If I am attentive to the quiet voice of the Spirit, it is possible to perceive hidden wounds and needs. Specific ideas of how to help can come from that same source. Then I can spring to assist or comfort as instinctively as I did the woman in the post office. If someone is hurt in a street accident, an ambulance comes quickly, but if a person is broken in spirit, depressed, afraid, burdened—little is done. Yet this person may be in greater need of rescue than the other. I pray to have eyes to see unspoken wounds and burdens of the soul, and to leap without hesitation to minister comfort. “The nearer we get to our Heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on [others]; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs” (Joseph Smith).
I looked out the window and saw a very long car pull up to our house. No one got out immediately. I waited and wondered who it was. Slowly, the driver’s door opened and an old man struggled to climb out, bracing himself with a cane. I grabbed a jacket and rushed out the front door. It turned out to be the oldest couple in our neighborhood. With great effort our aged friend hobbled up the sidewalk, teetering on his cane while balancing an enormous vase of flowers. It was my birthday. Tears gathered in my eyes at this generous demonstration of caring. The lovely bouquet stood on my kitchen table for days as a reminder that the most precious gifts are those hardest to give. Mother Theresa said, “You must give what will cost you something.” If we do not give when we have little, we are not likely to give when we have much. Action verbs from a favorite LDS hymn identify specific ways to serve: “I gave him all; I ran and raised the sufferer up; I flew; I revived…and supplied…and honored him. I roused…brought back…found him. I bid him welcome.” I will never forget the great lesson taught by my aged friend stumbling up the sidewalk on that windy October day. “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).
I have more to say about good mothers. This is the kind of mother I want to be: “If you need a woman to rear children in righteousness, Here am I; send me. If you need a woman to make a house a home filled with love, Here am I; send me. If you need a woman who will shun vulgarity and dress modestly and speak with dignity and show the world how joyous it is to keep the commandments, Here am I; send me. If you need a woman who can resist the alluring temptations of the world by keeping her eyes fixed on eternity, Here am I, send me” (M. Russell Ballard). What I say to every mother about to give birth to a daughter is this: I’m glad you’re having a girl because the world needs good mothers! A good mother LIFTS, BENDS, and BALANCES with near superhuman strength. “Motherhood is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels” (David O. McKay). We mothers need to be reminded of this beautiful description of our career.
Someone listed these New Year resolutions: Break a bad habit; Learn a new skill, Do a good deed, Visit a new place, Read a new book, Write something important; Try new food, Do something good for someone who cannot thank you; and Take an important risk. These are all good, but there is an additional dimension that has merit. As my beautiful wife was preparing her list, beside each one, she recorded the attributes these tasks would hopefully improve. Adding this additional step helps identify what we are striving to become. A successful year is measured not only by things we do—things we can check off a list. Rather, a year is successful if we become better than we were before. “Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position or prestige. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service, and character” (William Ward).
Two fragments from literature teach me about extending messages of genuine caring, even when it’s not convenient. 1.) A Southern woman stood in her kitchen early one morning in robe and slippers watching a neighbor cross the field toward her door with an obvious expression of dismay. She hustled to put the coffee pot on, saying, “Friends is friends, whether they ready or not” (from the book, Homemade Love). Do these opportunities to reach out to another’s need ever come at a convenient time? 2.) This verse by Robert Frost further explains: “When a friend calls to me from the road; and slows his horse to a meaning walk; I don’t stand still and look around—on all the hills I haven’t hoed, and shout from where I am—What is it? No, not as there is a time to talk. I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground; Blade-end up and five feet tall; And plod—I go to the stone wall for a friendly visit.” I need to remember that tasks are never more important than people.