There is a church down the street with the following on its lawn sign: “GODISNOWHERE”. The point of the sign is to reveal a person’s perspective – does the reader see “God is nowhere” or “God is now here”? Clever. But the sign also serves as a prime example for the value of space. There is meaning in strings of letters and there is meaning in the breaks: legend and leg end (one involves a great feat and other is great feet), justice and just ice (ask for each at the donut shop and you will get two very different things), menswear and men swear (it may refer to a blue shirt or a blue streak) or conspiracy and cons piracy (descriptions of a nefarious plot and the actions of a thieving ship of prisoners). Space contributes to meaning.
Pauses are impactful. Watch any competition television show and you will experience the power of the pause: Ryan Seacrest stating on American Idol that “the winner…will be revealed when we come back” or Tom Bergeron on Dancing with the Stars looking into the camera and saying “the couple leaving tonight’s competition…(a camera pans over the contestants for 30 seconds)…[insert names here]”. We all can recall an occasion when we included a pregnant pause – for effect, in remorse, to increase suspense – to take a breath to add weight to what needed to be said. Space contributes to importance.
Unfortunately, most of us rush our words and our conversations suffer. We abhor silence. We seek to remedy the awkward pause with something, anything to fill the void. We have lost our appreciation for space, for pause, for silence. We have stopped taking the time to listen. We have ceased the practice of seeking God’s help in appropriating just the right phrase. We have replaced relational interactions with information transfers, expressing less of our feelings and more of the facts. We tweet and text, ignoring punctuation and eliminating the full stop from the period or the subtle shift from the comma. Space contributes to emotion.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
The root word for the Old Testament practice of meditation relates to the biological function of digestion. We have a similar English word: rumination. We ‘chew on’ ideas, we ‘digest’ materials. In a real sense we break down the thoughts, sights and sounds of life into their basic nutritional components and absorb them, using them for our benefit and the benefit of others. We would be better communicators if we allowed time for the inner processes to come to a completion before we uttered some of the empty outward expressions our conversations contain.
Allow yourself the space to build meaning, emphasize importance and express emotion. Perhaps we can, in our own way, incorporate the wisdom of C.S. Lewis, who said,
“A pipe gives a wise man time to think and a fool something to stick in his mouth.”
We all can benefit from a little time to think and then utter just the right expression.
I am a product of my environment: I am impatient. I am not sure if it started with the remote control, the automatic drip coffee maker, the microwave oven or the cell phone, but I have grown increasingly uncomfortable with waiting. Fortunately, technology enables me to no longer waste my time in lines at the bank (there’s an app which makes my deposits for me and ATMs at every corner), in lines at the ‘video store’ (there’s On Demand™, Netflix© and DVRs to remedy that inconvenience), or lines at Fotomat (since digital cameras allow you to see, crop and print your pictures in an instant. Waiting is quickly becoming an old-fashioned idea, like a house call from a doctor or handwritten letter from a friend.
Instant gratification is the ideal. Bookstores have been shuttered because we can read electronic copies of almost anything on our phones, tablets and laptops. Texts and social media postings have become the preferred method of communication and we can know almost immediately get a response or a ‘like’. Even the food we eat – 30 minute meals at home and fast casual cuisine at restaurants – shouldn’t typically take long to prepare or consume. We are a people who suffer from road rage when in traffic and buffering suffering when on-line. Most of us hate to wait.
The trouble with this aspect of our culture is that God uses waiting as a tool of our maturity. Throughout the pages of the Bible are accounts of individuals who were required to wait:
- Abraham was given a promise from God that he and Sarah would have a nation of offspring. He waited twenty five years before he held the fulfillment of the promise, Isaac.
- Joseph was imprisoned on false charges, trusting that God would deliver him from his oppressors. He waited seventeen years before he was released.
- Moses ran from God’s plan and people, escaping to the land of Jethro. He waited forty years before God spoke again and renewed his calling to deliver the Israelites.
- Zerubbabel began rebuilding the temple before opposition overwhelmed the work. He waited eighteen years before he was able to resume and finished reconstruction.
Patrick Morley, in his book How God Makes Men, talks about ‘Bible Time’ – a construct based on 2 Peter 3:8 which states that ‘with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.’ According to Morley, ‘Bible Time’ is elastic; ten minutes in heaven compares to ten years on earth and two thousand years in heaven are like two days on earth. Instant gratification is a convention of our human mind when we assume our time table and not God’s. Impatience is an aspect of our human nature where we assume we know how long something ought to last. Waiting is a gift from the Spirit enabling us to grow to become all that God desires.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14
For those of us who are waiting for God to act on our behalf, allow me to give you a tool which may help – Wait for God to change your situation or provide your relief tomorrow and one day He will.