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.
It will come as no surprise to those who know me that my favorite meal includes hamburgers: every birthday supper that I can remember involved hamburgers, as did nearly every recommendation I made for our dining-out options as a family. It is the perfect food, starting with a soft bun, continuing with a cool tomato and lettuce leaf, then accented with condiments and cheese, and completed with the juicy ground beef. I enjoy every kind of burger – the good at Fuddrucker’s (with more toppings than meat), the bad at McDonald’s (thin and oniony), and the messy at Red Robin (with a fried egg on top) – but I particularly enjoy a home-made grilled hamburger.
Unfortunately, for the last three years, our family remained grill-less. Sure, we had an electric ‘grill’ that griddle-fried meats outside, but (no offense to George Foreman) it was not the same. However, my grill-less condition ended when I celebrated my birthday eight weeks ago. That was the day that my family gifted me a gas/charcoal/smoker grill. It took 51 days before the weather was warm enough, but finally (with the tremendous assistance from my three boys) we assembled the grill on Sunday afternoon.
Unfortunately, the grill did not come with a propane tank. So, after waiting another day, on Monday afternoon my wife and I patronized BJ’s for a tank and 6 pounds of ground beef. We were ready to grill!
Unfortunately, the tank was empty and there are surprisingly few locations where a propane tank can be filled. We would have to wait another day. Finally, on Tuesday we went to Neponset Circle Car Wash and got 20 pounds of propane. And then, at 5:30 Tuesday afternoon, I began grilling burgers in my backyard. They were the best burgers I have consumed in quite a while; sure, they were arguably rare and perhaps more bloody than juicy, but they were delicious.
My home-made grilled burgers were definitely worth the wait. Despite my contention that I abhor waiting, I admit that the anticipation that comes with expected blessings is fantastic. If you have ever watched an unboxing video on YouTube or stirred restlessly on Christmas Eve, you know what I mean. We are rapt with what might be in the box or what might be in the present or what might be for dinner. My grill is a reminder that I can be consumed with the bitter taste that comes with waiting or content with the sweet savor of the blessings to come.
…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)
Where is your heart today? Is it heavy and burdened because you no longer want to wait? Is it uplifted and invigorated with the sure and certain hope of things to come? There are times when we must wait – for results, for relationships, for rewards – and that waiting can be draining. At those times remember what you are waiting for and then enable God to refresh you in the process. As for me, I will think about that as I enjoy some perfectly cooked ground beef surrounded by a grilled cheese sandwich.
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.