Let me start off by saying that I hate to wait. I know that waiting – for the train or for the kids or for doctor – is a part of life, but that does not mean I have to like it. Despite my personal preference, I am required, as are we all, to patiently endure a prolonged season of waiting for ‘life-as-normal’ to resume; eventually academia, commerce, recreation and church will return. Until then, we wait. As I write this post, it is Wednesday, May 6th, and it has been fifty days since the governor of Massachusetts implemented the ‘stay-at-home’ advisory, although it seems to me much longer.
God created a world with waiting woven into its fabric. God, it seems, designed us to wait. Creation includes the sabbath, a day set apart every week to refrain from our work. God led His people through the wilderness but delayed their entrance into the promised land for 40 years. God structured the agricultural schedule of the early Israelites with a 50-day waiting period between the gathering of the first fruits and the reaping of the harvest. God had Jesus and His earthly parents wait in Egypt for three years before the family could safely return to their hometown. God develops His gift of patience in us when we wait by Jesus’ tomb at Easter, when we wait in the upper room at Pentecost, and when we wait for His promised return on that great and glorious day.
“From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD.” Leviticus 23:15-16 (NIV)
As I think about what I know about myself and my disdain for patiently abiding, as well as the celebration of Mother’s Day this weekend, I realize how good and godly the moms in our lives must be. I deeply appreciate the contributions of the moms in my life. Honestly, I couldn’t do it. From the first moments of our existence, the waiting began: the two hundred and eighty days of our gestation, the hours waiting at the OB/GYN office, staying up in anticipation of the late night feedings, watching for the firsts (first smiles, first words, first steps). As our children grow, the waiting doesn’t abate, as moms of adults remain vigilant as they await word of their children’s arrival at home or their departure from vacation.
I am so grateful for the women who have waited for me and have made my seasons of waiting a bit more bearable. I appreciate that I am still able to see and speak with my mom and my mother-in-law, even though it must be through cell phones this year, and I pray for God’s hand of comfort for those who no longer have this ability. I pray also for all the mothers I know, especially the new moms and those with children still at home – those providing guidance, recreation, education, nutrition, lasting good memories and stability in this time of such uncertainty. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you.
And as we wait for that time of blessed reunion, either in this realm or the next, I hope we can take some time this weekend to thank God for our moms.
The older I get, the more impatient I have become. At times I think, and also at times I have been told, that I have no patience (which dictionary.com defines as “the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like). My ability to tolerate tardiness has been diminishing. My ability to stand in line is mostly non-existent. My ability to suffer fools is sorely lacking. This is a problem, because the fruit of the Spirt, the evidences that one is walking in flash and not flesh, includes patience. Christians, by nature, are blessed by God with patience, and yet I cannot seem to endure the simplest inconveniences of life.
The problem of impatience is not the petty annoyances like waiting for the utility company to fix a problem with my service or for the cashier to end her collegial conversation to ring up my purchase. The problem of impatience is the bigger issue of control of my time. Impatience reveals that we expect to be the trackers of our time; we want to be the masters of our minutes, the owners of our hours and the director of our days. We want to be in control of our lives. We want to be…but we are not.
Patience comes through our trust that God is in control. God knows the times that try our patience – the infernal moments at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the unending conversations with the opinionated uninformed and the sleepless nights after the interview or appointment – and God has some purpose in all of them. When we have the faith sufficient to follow God’s schedule, we will enjoy patience. There are more than a dozen references in the scriptures commanding us to ‘wait for the Lord’. The blessing of patience is found when we allow ourselves to remain where God wants us to be for as long as God determines.
…but they who wait for 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. Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)
The remarkable dynamic regarding patience is that it is a gift that keeps giving. God the Spirit endows people of faith with the character of patience, the ability to wait, and then that ability to wait endows those same people of faith with unlimited strength (as we soar to the highest of heights, run without weariness and walk without weakness). Patient endurance prepares us for future productivity. Not only does God grant His children the character of long-suffering but also the stamina to accomplish God’s will when it is God’s time to do so.
The fear I have in addressing my lack of patience, and seeking to live in obedience by exercising the spiritual fruit of patience, is that my life will be filled with opportunities to express patience. I trust that God knows more than I do and that He will, as I wait, enable me to fly, run and walk without limitation. Perhaps there are even things I could do while I sit in the ‘waiting room’ – read, relate or rest – so that I can be ready when the time is right. I guess I will just have to wait and see.
Dear gentleman who drove behind me on Pope’s Hill Road on Monday morning,
Please stop beeping at the cars in front of you. Please stop expecting us to somehow move quicker; to drive over the vehicles and pedestrians so that those with bigger plans, such as yourself, can get wherever you are needed a few seconds sooner. Have a heart: there is still snow piled higher than most of the children who were trying to enter the elementary school on the left and there are still icy berms which were bottle-necking the entrance to the supermarket on the right. I beg you, in light of the historically snowfall we are all experiencing, lay off the horn.
I understand your impatience. Perhaps you needed to get to work or a doctor’s appointment and the combination of buses, SUVs and kids in the crosswalk which were causing your snail’s-pace progress was frustrating. I, too, was frustrated, trying to get my 7-year old son to school in such conditions, wondering if I would find a space in the snow clogged supermarket lot and praying that we’d safely cross the streets (knowing that patience is at a premium especially when there are harried drivers honking and hollering, “move it!”). Getting anywhere these days, especially at 8:15 in the morning, challenges a person’s civility. Even so, please stop using your horn as a means of relieving your aggression or aggravation.
Allow me the time also to apologize to you. At about the time of your 10th toot, or by conservative estimates 1 minute into our anonymous interaction, I made the concerted effort to lengthen our discomfort. I intentionally let every car go ahead of me that was waiting at the side street to enter traffic; I intentionally slowed and moved to the side to allow oncoming vehicles to safely navigate the narrow street; I intentionally stopped to allow the crossing guard to safely shuttle the children and parents back and forth in front of me. I am not proud of these behaviors and admit that they were childish but, in my defense, they added no time to your commute.
I hope you got to wherever you were in a hurry to go. I hope that you and your fellow commuters all arrived safe and sound to your destinations. I wish you no ill will. I only wish you did the same for those driving in front of you.
Finally, I want to thank you. As I mentioned, my 7-year old son was in the car with me. I was tempted, strongly, to give you a piece of my mind with great voice (or an unkind gesture involving my hand), but I refrained. Instead I chose to engage in a conversation with an impressionable mind about the virtues of patience and courtesy. If your rhythmic blares had not interrupted the everyday activity of driving my son to school, I might have missed that opportunity to instill in him the ways to act like a gentleman.
Stay safe. There are, as I am sure you are aware, impatient jerks everywhere.
A fellow traveler
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5