Waiting, of any kind, is generally just stupid. We can all agree on this. We are on the same page here: I don’t like waiting, you don’t like waiting, nobody likes to wait. We want what we want, and we want it yesterday. Veruca Salt got this (“give it to me noooow”), and so did the Jews of Jesus’ time when they begged of him in John 10:24, “How long will you keep us in suspense?”

There are many truly devastating things a person can wait for in this world: healing, reconciliation, sanctification, fertility, a job, a spouse, a friend, joy, etc. During this particular season, I’ve been waiting for…words. That’s right. I’m a writer who hasn’t been able to write. You might know this heinous curse as “Writer’s Block.” In the past months I’ve opened fifty new Word documents, jotted countless notes into my notepad, beat my head against the dining room table, and waited for any small inspiration that will coax at least a few meaningful thoughts onto the page. It’s been hell. Writer’s Block is particularly concerning as it is words, and my given way with them, that I feel God has fixed me with in order to share his Good News. One can rarely share any sort of news with just facial expressions or outerwear. Duh. One needs words. I usually have them. Now I do not. I know, I’m handling this all exceptionally well.

Over the weeks and months of this brash muteness, I have come to believe that sometimes nothing is more something than we like to think. And there is a sort of gospel-motion in the awful stents of being stalled out, the in-between, wringing our hands and perspiring for whatever will come next (possible outcomes in this case: words at last, more waiting, or a personal come-apart of comedic proportions). I am beginning to be reminded that what seems at first like fluff or wasted time between point A and point B — miles and miles of grass and cows and sky — might actually be more like a tendon, a ligament, a critical juncture that keeps our whole roving story functionally moving forward.

Odd as it sounds, the cultural shift from episodic television to “binging” an entire season in one sitting has something to say about all this. Stay with me. This year, one of my biggest TV binges was AMC’s Mad Men (2007-2015). The show originally aired in weekly episodes but, as you can imagine, I did not wait a week between episodes. I took in the whole thing on Netflix with the grace and patience of a firehose mid-summer. After I watched the show’s finale, though, I read this interview with Matthew Weiner, Mad Men’s creator. When asked about returning to TV and going with a streaming platform (like Netflix), he said the following:

I would try to convince them to let me roll them out so at least there was just some shared experience. I love the waiting; I love the marination. When you watch an entire season of a show in a day, you will definitely dream about it, but it’s not the same as walking around the whole week, saying, ‘God, Pete really pissed me off.’ And then at the end of the week, saying, ‘When he said he had nothing, that really hurt.’ I remember people saying that. You can reconsider it. And you see it pop up in your life… I feel like you should be able to be as specific as you possibly can, and let that sit with people. I loved having the period in between the shows, and it probably is the end of it.

When I first read this, I thought Matthew Weiner needed to hop his antiquated be-hind into the 21st Century. But then…I got sucked into not one but two incredible shows (Castle Rock and Sharp Objects), episodes of which are released — wait for it — weekly. Over time, I have come to see his point. In those seven days of waiting between each episode, I’ve experienced a range of thoughts and emotions: frustration about wanting to know what’s next, joy in anticipation of the coming episode, rehashing the events of past episodes, the thrill in suspense, and then the mental grappling to make sense of the story and the characters and what any of it has to do with my own life. The waiting, in some ways, enmeshes the viewer in the story in a deeper and more transformative way than taking the whole thing in like a late-night chug-off. We remember more, we are more attuned to details and information, we live with the story. We carry it around with us.

Most importantly, around half-way through the week between two episodes, we resign ourselves to our own powerlessness over the unknown. We can parse the details from last week down to the frame, yet we cannot possibly, actually, or fully know what’s to come. It’s that particular resignation that is, in some ways, the crescendo of the waiting. With the right eyes, powerlessness can give way to joy.

So what does this say about our own “periods between shows” — those minutes and hours and days and years of looking ahead to our desired plot-points?

In this waiting time of mine, spiritually and linguistically blocked, I have asked the big questions and thought all the distressing thoughts. “Who am I if I’m not writing?” “I am irrelevant.” “I have no value.” “What if there is nothing meaningful left to say?” “What if I never write again?” These questions themselves, instead of their answers, have been pivotal because of what they have revealed about me and the backwards direction of my heart (namely, it’s curved inward). These are the details I have been walking around with, marinating in, changing my mind about, stewing over, dreaming about.

My sin is front and center. And of course that bastard always points me right to my powerlessness. Which eventually points to my salvation. And then, there is joy. I am carrying these revelations, living with them in the down-time between the drama. In the grappling I am being reminded of the true source and purpose of any good words that come out of me. They aren’t the result of my intelligence or wit or my ability to write a pretty sentence; they are grace-given outpourings of a flawed and broken vessel. This waiting is where the holy spirit has filled me up — not with brilliant thoughts, ideas, or words — but with this ugly glimpse into my self-sufficiency and self-servitude. In this waiting I remember who I actually am and where I actually belong: not at a keyboard, but on my knees.

Here is the something in the nothingness of waiting. And God has asked his people to wait in hopeful anticipation since Eve’s back faced Eden. We wait for no more tears, no more death, no more sorrow. We wait to walk on streets of gold. We wait and we hope for what we cannot yet see. And so our human lives are like the long days between two episodes; life and then death (and then life everlasting).

The space between — painful as it can be — is crucial. Ligament — tendon — joint. There are forwards and backwards and straining and stretching; we screw up, we ask our big questions and, if we settle before the cross into the suspense and difficulty of it all, we get even bigger answers.

In John 10 when the Jews asked Jesus — “How long will you keep us in suspense?” — they were referring to the details of his identity. They wanted him to explain who exactly he was. “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus responded that there should be no suspense about who he is. He said to look at the miracles he had already performed in God’s name. Look at the scripture that foretold of him long ago. “What about the one whom the father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?” he said to them.

“I am he.”

Because of Jesus, there is no waiting when it comes to our value, our worth, our acceptance, our relevance. In his life and death and resurrection, God has already deemed us valuable, worthy, accepted, and relevant to him. None of my thoughtful words (or lack thereof) will ever change this. Now that’s something to write about.

Herein lies that gospel-motion, the blessed motor in the waiting. Because our “selves” — inward — is not the wellspring from which God has given us to operate. Sometimes we need the in-between to remind us of this horrible fact. Our inkwells are in our weakness. Our inkwells are in God’s strength outside of us. This — this love — is the fount that never runs dry, never gets blocked, and flows forward like cursive, like a mighty, rushing flood.