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Watching & Waiting – The Moody Blues
By Michael Dalton
The music of The Moody Blues has an ethereal and otherworld quality that has always been attractive to me. It dawned on me that this haunting quality, which I also find in the music of artists like Pink Floyd, and even today in the music of Jeff Johnson, has appealed to me throughout my life. Perhaps it’s a subtle evidence that there is a God, who put within me a longing that identifies with music that has a transcendent sound.
“Watching & Waiting,” written by Justin Hayward and Ray Thomas, is a beautiful conclusion on To Our Children’s Children’s Children. Released in 1969, the recording met with critical acclaim and sold well in the UK and US. Interestingly, most of the songs could not be performed live because of lush orchestration and a great deal of overdubbing. Wikipedia notes that the album “was inspired by the 1969 moon landing, and the songs center around the twin themes of space travel and children, with minor-key tonalities and a distinct psychedelic influence.” Those minor-key tonalities and that psychedelic influence fit so well with the words of this song.
Watching and waitingIn my more vulnerable moments, I find myself wondering if I will ever meet anyone who can fully understand me, and with whom I can share my delight for all that is bright and beautiful in this world. A friend once said that God had given me a heightened appreciation for art, and I believe it’s true, but it hasn’t always been that way.
At the beginning of my Christian life, I went through a time characterized by a cutting-off of all that was associated with my old life. I discarded much of what had shaped my life, including the music of my past. Thankfully, that was not the end of the story. My experience was similar to that of Oswald Chambers, the author of the best-selling devotional, My Utmost for His Highest. He surrendered all of his artistic inclinations only to find later on that God had more than restored his appreciation for the arts. It’s a little like the experience of Job. After he experienced the loss of everything, God “gave Job twice as much as he had before.”
I now feel that I can appreciate art more than I ever could before. At times I am so overwhelmed by beauty that I want to share it. I wonder if this desire to share something that transcends its medium is part of being made in the image of God. God shares in a holy trinity whose nature is giving. “For God so loved the world that He gave …” Hasn’t someone said that we are most like God when we give? Hasn’t God said that it’s not good for us to be alone? We were made for sharing. It’s another evidence that God is more than a figment of our imagination. Part of His nature is woven into the fabric of our being.
The words “watching and waiting” sometimes express what I’m feeling. After seeing David Gilmour’s magnificent performance of the Pink Floyd song, “Fat Old Sun,” I wondered if anyone else could be as moved as I was. The first part of the song featured gentle acoustic sounds and singing, which was then followed by an explosive electric guitar solo that made the song so powerful.
When I get discouraged about finding someone with whom I can share, I find strange comfort in the proverb: “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy” (Proverbs 14:10 ESV). As close as two people can be, only God can fully plumb the heights and depths of a person’s joys and sorrows. We are made in such a way that no person can fully empathize with us. There are places in our innermost being that can only be shared with God.
Recently a friend shared the simple counsel that she gave to a friend of hers who struggles with alcoholism and her relationships with the opposite sex. This friend had just met a guy in a bar and was becoming involved. It kept her from going church, one of the places that she needed to be. Even though it’s commonly heard, I knew that my friend was sharing something that she had discovered to be true in her own life, and maybe that’s what made it so refreshing. She encouraged her friend, a Christian, to get closer to God.
My friend knew that her friend could only be satisfied if her relationship with God was what it should be. She needed times of prayer and Bible reading and having fellowship with others. Another relationship would not be able to satisfy her. It’s a huge mistake to try and get from others what we can only get from God. It produces misery instead of the freedom spoken of in the lines of the chorus.
'Cos here there's a lot of room for doingIsn’t it strange that we find liberty when we surrender to God? Serve Him and suddenly there’s room for doing more than you imagined. As I mentioned, I gave up some of my freedom when I first came to Christ, and now my artistic inclinations have been heightened and refined. I find that I am the freest when I am closest to God. When I allow something to take the place of God in my life, I’m diminished. I’m restricted. The liberty is gone.
Though we can experience freedom now, the chorus of this song reminds me of heaven. There, all unrealized hopes and dreams—like finding a friend who truly knows and understands us—will find their ultimate fulfillment. There will be no more want, no more limitation and no more silent suffering. The Bible also tells us that there will be no more pain. Physical pain is bad enough, but there’s also an agony in emotional pain. Think of all the lonely people just looking for a friend—someone who will care.
Soon you will see meI’m not sure who or what is being referred to in these lines. I’m glad that God doesn’t keep us guessing. He has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ. Jesus came and died and rose again so that we could be reconciled to God. Jesus makes it so simple: Believe in Me. If we entrust our lives into His care and keeping, we will one day see Him.
For now we must wait, but God gives us much to delight in here and now. The fields and forests belong to Him. He graciously gives us all things for our enjoyment. He gives to us that we may share with others. Even as the apostle Paul instructed Timothy, his son in the faith, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share” (1 Timothy 6:17-18 ESV).
In the book of Acts, Paul reminded a group of believers of the words of Jesus: it’s better to give than to receive. Perhaps that’s why it’s so rewarding to share life’s most beautiful moments, and we can, even if we have no one but God to share with.
Watching and waitingThese lines remind me of the hymn, “No One Understands Like Jesus,” written by John. W. Peterson. At one time Peterson had a fairly responsible job in a well-known gospel ministry. He was led to believe that he would be promoted to a supervisory position that opened in his department. He was thrilled by the prospect of this new opportunity. His hopes were cruelly dashed when someone outside the company was hired to fill the position.
A time of agonizing heart-searching followed. It was difficult for him not to be bitter. One night he had the opportunity to spend time with the man who was brought in to take the job. Though this man was ordinarily a pleasant person, he was quite caustic in his remarks to Peterson. Peterson was deeply hurt.
Of that experience, he writes, “Later that evening, after returning home, I was sitting in our living room thinking about the events of the past days and about the bitter experiences of that evening. I began to feel very alone and forsaken. Suddenly, I sensed the presence of the Lord in an unusual way and my mind was diverted from my difficulties to His faithfulness and sufficiency. Soon the thought occurred to me that He fully understood and sympathized with my situation—in fact, no one could ever completely understand or care as did He. Before long, the idea for the song came and I began to write....”
No one understands like Jesus.Jesus is the friend that sticks closer than a brother. He is the shelter in the storm. He is the apple tree of delight that can satisfy like no one other.
That’s not to deny our need and desire for human companionship. That is a blessing from God, but we cannot always count on another person. God, however, has promised to be with us always. Though we may not perceive it, He may never be so near as when we feel all alone, when we feel like no one understands.
When we have no one to share our joys and sorrows, God is there. He’s the faithful, understanding friend that our heart craves. Jesus calls as friends those who follow Him. We can follow Him even through the hard and bitter experiences of life.
He will keep vigil with us
through the long night of watching and waiting, until that morning that
will be like no other, when we our finally home. Then at last we will be
with the Friend that we have longed for perhaps without even knowing it.
There’s none like Him. No one can compare.