Hope & Hairdressers: What It Means to Wait on the Lord

By the time I was four years old I had learned that when Dad said, “In a little bit, son,” it meant I had to wait a very long time. At times this meant agonizingly long, at times this meant even all the way until Christmas day! It’s cute when it’s a childhood memory. It’s not so cute when it’s now. This is because waiting — be it for a traffic light, a job promotion, or the final round of chemo — wages war on our core, where the values of efficiency and control rule like the twin gods Castor and Pollux over our daily decisions.

But a better power than Gemini guides those who belong to Christ: the One whose Spirit encourages us that the pain of the delay can become a constant conversation with our Maker. We would not have this conversation in the first place unless our expectation was that it would lead to a healing conclusion. This is why we put our hope in the One we are speaking to. 

Granted, our ‘hope’ may be no more than the bare bones kind of Simon Peter, who confessed, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) Like Puddlelum of C.S. Lewis’ Silver Chair,  we conclude that no tale is more persuasive than the original one given us about the Maker, perplexing as that account may be given our less-than-hopeful circumstances. And so we put our foot down there, refusing to be charmed by other tales though we make a hot mess of the one we find ourselves in. But that is the same starting block we all begin at, no matter how far along in the marathon we are. 

The prophet Isaiah promises,

“those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.” (40:31, ESV)

But “wait” in this prophecy is not merely a matter of delay; it is a matter of being transformed.  For the word here meaning “to wait” also means “to hope”, making it clear that what we really hope for can only be revealed over time. And the same word meaning “to wait” and “to hope” is rooted in an earthy, rough-hewn Hebrew word that literally means “to twist,” as in the weaving together of hemp into a rope or as in a hairdresser plaiting hair into braids. The word is just as at home at sea as it is at the coiffure as it is in the presence of God. 

We see therefore that to “wait on the Lord,” to hope in Him, is not a matter of sitting around biding time as one does on a bench at the metro stop or in an airport terminal; nor is it a matter of doing time, as one does when in jail. It is a matter of being braided into God’s good news, that all things work together for good insofar as we cultivate love for Him and surrender to the calling He has given us, and insofar as we repent and find the mercy that miraculously re-routes our path to Plan A again. For when we repent of sin, there is no Plan B; there is only Plan Grace.

So it is accurate to paraphrase Isaiah’s passage this way: 

“Those who are braided into the Lord shall renew their strength; yes, those who allow the Creator to weave and blend and splice their lives into His own shall return to a robust joy rising above all that daunts and exhausts them.” 

This is what it means to wait on the Lord.

It is not comfortable, but it is beautiful. It is not glamorous, but it is glorious. 

Consider the implication: If you are being “braided into the Lord,” the Maker of All shares in your successes and sorrows, in your longings and laughter. He works your weakness and sin together for good. He goes through your suffering and sickness, experiencing somehow that strange elongation of time that happens when you are in pain and during which you wish for nothing else but for the end to come soon. 

Conversely, if the Lord is being braided into you, then with every twist and turn of the waiting, with every pain point of delay, He shares His holiness, His joy, His light, His power, His love: Himself. He makes His home in you. And all moments become sacred at the point of contact and sacred in the memory thereof, for He writes the testimony of His presence into your story. 

This also means that the Lord redeems all things into that which leads to awe and delight. Our waiting is not wasted, even the majority of our time and tasks, which are common, ordinary and  noticed only by our heavenly Father who sees in secret and who knows our hearts. 

For those who look to Him, for those who make time and space for Him, the blending and the braiding of His Spirit with our own saturates life with purpose, beauty, comfort, and joy. 

Time now has sacred value. 

A moment becomes a sacrament. 

All things become His. 

And He provides Scriptures as an ever-ready conversation with our Lord while we wait, until we say, along with the crestfallen travellers on the road to Emmaus, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32 ESV) 

And He is revealed to us on our own Emmaus Road.

~ km

© Copyright Kurt Mahler

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  • Kelly (Allen) Atkinson says:

    Weeping again over here. Thank you for writing this, Kurt. In the past, Christ has spoken to me through the Infinity symbol, saying ‘There is no sin, loss, lack or mistake I am not able to redeem.’ I believe you’re right—there is no Plan B, only Infinite redemption. I’m encouraged to open my heart to Christ, moment by moment in the waiting. Thank you.

  • Monica Hernandez says:

    So beautiful! Thank you for this encouragement Kurt. The Lord bless you and your family.

  • David Rowland says:

    Beautifully written. Thank you for the encouragement and insight.

  • Jacob Roque says:

    Such a deep and beautiful revelation Kurt. Thank you for sharing these things with me, with us all. So much value translated to such a mundane part of existence, and is that not The Grace of God upon our lives?Glory, really all glory, thank you for your stewardship of this revelation, granted to you by God.

    • Kurt Mahler says:

      Jacob, I appreciate how you put it, “much value translated to such a mundane part of existence”. Another way to phrase this is attributed to Jean-Pierre Caussade in the early 1700s, who calls it “the sacrament of the present moment”. I rejoice that somehow the essay caught a glimmer of His glory for you!

  • Brian Ocock says:

    Wow Kurt! Beautifully said! Not long ago, God was speaking to me a vision of a braid. The braid was the Trinity and I was a ribbon woven into that loving and tight braid! I was woven into his love, joy, peace and power – hemmed in and secure. I was an adornment that He rejoiced in as well, and yes, waiting for Him to move, and yet I don’t have to wait for His love! Thank you for inviting me into your outreach!

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