Last night, my train stopped shortly after it began moving due to a storm-related delay. Apparently, the power was out along the tracks, making it impossible for us to continue forward.
Immediately, commuters lashed out, complaining about the delays.
Unfortunately, I was one of them.
It was late. My clothes were soaked from the rain and I was tired. Like everyone else on the train, I, too, wanted to be home.
For the next hour, the conductor announced a perpetual stream of more delays. Each time he did, the grumbling intensified.
An hour after we left the train station, we pulled back into it, unable to continue on. Irate commuters streamed off the train.
Eventually, my husband and I hailed a cab and headed home. As we did, I found myself contemplating our reaction to the delay. I mean, it was nearly 11 pm. Where on earth were we in such a hurry to get to? Why, as a culture, are we so adverse to stillness and waiting?
Sometimes, I wonder what we miss because of this, especially in terms of our faith.
Though we’re adverse to stillness and waiting, God is not. The Psalms exhort us to “Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:7) Throughout Scripture, God shows up in the stillness. When people wait, God acts.
If this is true, then how can we teach teens to patiently wait on God, especially in a culture where adults get frustrated whenever they’re forced to wait, even if it’s 11 pm?
Try these three things.
1. Stop stressing about worship transitions. During Holy Week, my congregation holds evening prayer each night. This service is slow. Between each part, we wait. The first night, these transitions feel awkward; The last night, they don’t seem long enough. Try that same strategy with teens. Rather than rushing from one part of worship to the next, intentionally include three minutes of stillness between each worship element.
2. Deliberately stop. Several years ago during a retreat, we hurried back from an evening activity, eager to dig into our study. As we walked, I looked up and noticed the beautiful stars. So I stopped the group, made everyone lay down and look up. We didn’t talk. We just star gazed. At the end of the retreat, several students described this moment as the one in which they most profoundly encountered God on our retreat. Knowing this, do this more. Intentionally stop during camps, mission trips, and regular youth ministry events to be still and wait on God.
3. Pray. Nothing teaches teens to be still and wait on God like prayer. My pastor recently led our junior high students in Prayer Around the Cross, a quiet, meditative service that includes scripture reading, reflection, music, and an opportunity to kneel near a large cross, light a candle and engage in personal prayer in a corporate setting. Later, he reflected on how everyone – including the boys – responded to this, eagerly kneeling before the cross and reverently offering their prayers to God.
To be clear, teaching teens to wait on God isn’t actually about preparing them to be better commuters. It’s about teaching them an important spiritual practice that will allow them to encounter God and to discover for themselves that sometimes, God is moving even when we are not.