Holding Pattern

Read this featured blog post by Pastor Tony Rea

Holding Pattern


I Can (series)

In the last episode, I described my salvation testimony in detail and noted it wasn’t long after my Christian conversion that I sensed the call of God on my life for full-time ministry. The fact is, it happened rather quickly—within a few short months I just knew my police officer days were numbered. Even though law enforcement was both satisfying and rewarding, I concluded my God-given assignment was not police work. It was crystal clear, at least to me, God called and designed me to preach the gospel message of Jesus Christ. That was my life purpose.

My first inclination was to quit the police department immediately, but thankfully wisdom prevailed, and I agreed to wait for God’s timetable instead of my own. I guess there were some lessons I had to learn first before I would be ready to launch out into ministry. Unfortunately, I’m a slow learner; it took God a little longer than normal to file off my most severe rough edges. I was in ministry training, or should I say, Holy Spirit bootcamp for nine years. That’s right, nine long and at times grueling years waiting to transition from the streets to the sanctuary.

The only way I can accurately describe those years is to say it felt like a massive holding pattern. Yes, I was jumping through necessary spiritual hoops, essential heart transformation was set in motion, and I was making steady progress; but it just seemed like my whole life was being held in abeyance.

Several years ago, I traveled south to sunny Florida during the cold Michigan winter. This is something Terese and I have done for over 25 years. The flight to Fort Lauderdale on that occasion was not a pleasant one; we experienced a good amount of turbulence, and did I mention I’m not a fan of flying? It’s not like I struggle with aerophobia or have a bunch of fear issues, it’s just that I’m somewhat uncomfortable in the air. My reasoning is, if there’s an aircraft mechanical failure of some kind, you can’t pull over and fix it.

Well we finally made our approach to Hollywood International Airport, and the pilot announced we were in final descent and should be on the ground in minutes. But then, just when it looked as though we were going to land, instead of continuing our descent, we started moving in an upward direction. The pilot then turned the plane sharply to the left and begin to fly over the Atlantic Ocean…. and he just kept going. I thought to myself, are you kidding me? Did I mention I’m not a fan of flying… especially over water?

Come to find out, there was a little bit of a jam-up on the tarmac, and air traffic control put us in a temporary holding pattern. We proceeded to make large racetrack-like circles above the Atlantic Ocean for close to 30 minutes before we were finally given clearance to land. For me (and the other sober passengers) it was torturous.

That’s precisely what it felt like during those nine years of waiting. It seemed like I was in gridlock—caught in a standstill between two different worlds. I chose not to pursue career advancement in the police department because I expected to resign soon and enter church ministry. Why invest a ton of time studying for the sergeant’s exam (like a bunch of my police buddies did) when I could put extra effort into sermon prep for my volunteer student pastor position at my church? At the time, most every personal activity and decision I made was viewed through the lens of changing careers; the only problem was, from my perspective, there was no movement. My story was put on mega-hold.

Ever feel that way? Ever feel like you’re in a huge holding pattern with very little progress taking place?

Well, I’ll have you know that kind of thing happens a lot, especially in the Bible. When you have a chance, check out King David’s story (arguably the greatest king in Israel’s history). Usually God is the one orchestrating the temporary interruption, and oftentimes we make the mistake of thinking not much good is being accomplished—nothing could be further from the truth. God is always at work, even when we don’t know what He’s up to.

And since what I just described is God’s regular modus operandi, here are three lessons I’ve learned while navigating a God-ordained waiting room—which is often.

1. Waiting on God doesn’t mean inactivity.

The word for waiting in Hebrew means to become intertwined with God—much like the strands of a rope. The more we linger or kill time with God, the more we become one with Him. Please don’t misinterpret a season of waiting to be an excuse for procrastination, lethargy, or apathy.

Isaiah 40:31 NKJV

But those who wait on the Lord

Shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint.

2. Trust needs to become your middle name.

As I’ve mentioned before, Proverbs 3:5-6 has become a life-verse for me, and it was deeply embedded in my soul during the season of waiting. Trust is not wishful thinking, it’s a tangible confidence and certainty in God. This proverb says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” 

3. God is able to redeem the time.

Time spent waiting for God to give the green light is never time wasted. His character is redemption, recovery, and restoration; and any sacrifice you make, even a sacrifice of your own agenda, will somehow, someway end up working in your favor.

Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory… for ever and ever!