The Unspectacular Waiting
“Be prepared. It takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to produce spectacular results.” – Entrepreneur Magazine
This quote has been our life these days. We are in the middle of so much unspectacular preparation, and have been for so long, that it’s mind-boggling. We just celebrated our sixth anniversary living in Spain. Sixth! When we first moved here, our anniversaries were celebratory – “Hey, we’ve been here two years! We know Spanish so much better now than we used to!”
These days each anniversary is a quiet affair as we think, “GAH! it’s been 6 years and we’re not open yet! What have we been doing this whole time!”
If you had told us back in 2007 that in 2013 we still wouldn’t have anything open yet, we wouldn’t have believed you. We were so arrogant back then. When people asked how long it would take to open a pilgrims’ ministry, we said, “Oh, probably two or three years.” Ha! If we had known how difficult bureaucracy was going to be in Spain, how long it would take to master the culture and work within its nuances, and how many thousand pieces of paperwork it would take to get to this point where we’re almost about to get ready to open the Pilgrim House Welcome Center, I don’t know if we would’ve started down this road.
These days, Nate and I have been struggling with discouragement and impatience. We signed the contract on our storefront four months ago – the first step toward putting together a project with the architects – and we’ve been paying rent on it for the past two months (the first two months were free) while waiting for city hall to issue building permits. Most Spaniards might not even wait for building permits to start renovations, but since we want to do everything legally, we’ve been waiting. It’s sorely tempting to just say, “Forget being legal,” and just do what the Spaniards do and take our chances on being discovered and getting fined.
So that’s what it’s like in our more low-spirited moments.
At the same time, it’s been amazing to watch the Lord work during these last six years. The way Pilgrim House has hit milestone after milestone (there was never any guarantee that any of the milestones would be accomplished), and the way our team of six (soon to be eight) was put together, has been faith-growing. With our team, a strong Welcome Center with lots of services offered and time spent with the pilgrims is a definite can-do. And the ways in which we’re gifted is so complementary, there is a lot of synergy when we’re meeting together and planning for the exciting future.
Another highlight in this season of preparation has been the number of pilgrims we’ve been able to connect with this summer. One of our coaches had said, “Be the welcome center before you have one,” and this summer we finally were. So many pilgrims called and emailed, said they were walking the Camino and could we answer questions before they started out, could we get together once they walked into Santiago. This high season actually felt like high season for our team in how many pilgrims we met and the great conversations we had. It’s been a supreme privilege, and it will be great when we finally open up Pilgrim House and host all these pilgrims in one place.
Terra Nova Pilgrim House: Opening Soon
However, the waiting has been hard, really hard. We do the paperwork, we meet with our architects and building foreman, we’re creating smooth administrative and financial processes, and our teammates attend Spanish classes and continue getting plugged in with the community. But sometimes it feels like we’re spinning our wheels.
I had a personal retreat earlier this week and drove to a favorite spot in La Coruña, Parque de Monte San Pedro. I was expressing my frustration to the Lord, how draining it was to wait and have hope deferred for “so” long (the melodrama!). As I was there, I noticed these paragliders (both wearing helmets and black clothes):
They were strapped into their harnesses and just standing there, waiting for the wind to come and pick up their wings so they could run off the hill and fly around. They waited a long time before the wind finally came. But when it came, they were ready – they weren’t sitting down and they weren’t messing around with their equipment. They caught the wind and started going:
And they certainly produced spectacular results:
It was a great reminder of how important preparation, and readiness, are. So on the one hand we protest, “Lord, what’s taking so long?” On the other hand, it’s so clear He’s getting our team and Pilgrim House ready. God is in this waiting, preparing us for things and situations we can’t yet see, and we need to be faithful and do the hard, tedious tasks. Though it’s not the timeline our impatience would have chosen, when we look back we’ll see that this time of preparation was foundational and refining. And when things are ripe He’ll release us to be open.
We pray that at that point, all these years of unspectacularness will pay off in spectacular, fruitful moments and results, for His glory.