Last week, when I was up in Chicago for our pastor’s leadership cohort retreat, we started off with an hour and and a half silent retreat. It was the best way possible to start our time together!
It was also a really cool journey into the first chapter of Luke.
I planted myself outside where there was a bench by some lovely green lawn and trees. The weather was absolutely perfect and the setting was great for prayer, reading the Bible and reflection.
I read John 1, the story of the origins of John the Baptist. What I didn’t realize before was that the three human characters, Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist, all went through seasons of waiting! And of course, they all alliterate and start with the letter S.
Zechariah was struck dumb, thanks to his question to the angel. (Can’t say there isn’t such a thing as a “dumb question,” ha ha.) Unfortunately, because of his lack of belief, he goes through a season of silence (v 20). He can’t talk the entire pregnancy, and it’s not until his son is born that his voice comes back (v 64).
Can you imagine? Your first and only child, in a time where you are old and have given up hope. Your wife gets pregnant. Her belly starts to grow. You feel the baby kick. She goes into labor. The baby comes out. And you can’t say a single thing the entire time!
I would say that would qualify as a major bummer.
Elizabeth goes through another season of waiting. She gets pregnant and says in seclusion for five months (v24)!
This is a bit hard for me to understand. It was a huge blessing to finally be pregnant! She knew her disgrace had been removed, and that God had been the one who had done it. If I were her, I’d be everywhere showing off my big belly to everyone. Years and years of disgrace, shame, and sadness… now gone!
But Elizabeth remains in seclusion until Mary comes to visit her.
All quite odd to me!
John the Baptist is finally born! But instead of studying to be a rabbi or following his dad into temple service, he heads out to the wilderness! He’s off on his own season of waiting. He grows and becomes strong in the Spirit (v 80).
I suppose he would be the first-century equivalent of a hipster, though his diet was pretty suspect. After all, his shag was not in his hair but in his clothes (camel’s hair, Matt 3:4), and it was PC to wear leather in those days. His diet, though, would not really fall into any category such as vegan or vegetarian. I suppose locusts and honey would be considered organic, though.
Who knows what he was doing all that time before he began his public ministry?
Reasons for the Seasons
I puzzled over these three really odd seasons, and realized that through these seasons of waiting, God was developing all three people.
Zechariah goes through a journey of faith. The angel told him he would have a baby and he said “What baby?” Nine months later, we know that the angel had told him, “You are to call him John,” and at the end of his season of silence, Zechariah goes, “His name is John.” We see him change from doubt to obedience.
Elizabeth goes through a season of preparation. God is creating a new work in her, birthing a new child. In her time of solitude, she is reflecting on God’s work in her life — “The Lord has done this for me.”
John is in a season of growth. God strengthens him spiritually and prepares him for the ministry ahead. Although he is filled with the Holy Spirit before he is even born (v 15), God still continues to develop him in the wilderness.
All three people went through waiting, and God worked quietly in their lives.
What a great reminder for me when I go through my own personal seasons of waiting! Though I often become impatient because I don’t see things happening, God is working in me to prepare me and strengthen my faith and understanding of Him.
And in the end, I am a changed person because of Him.