Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Waiting is Un-American

Which one of the following do you think is the worst?

Standing in line at the checkout counter.

Waiting for a web page to load more than five seconds.

A traffic light at rush hour. Or a traffic light when you have red and there’s not a car in sight for the green light.

The server to bring your check for dinner.

Waiting from the phone call from the Human Resources Department that tells you if you got the job, or if you didn’t.

The final month of pregnancy, for yourself or your wife.

Waiting for your teenager to clean his room, or at least wash his clothes.

All of the above.

Waiting, or patience, is not an American national virtue. At some point early in our history, the patience gene became regressive, and the impatience gene became dominant. The advent of the internet only worsened the condition. Remember the Mosaic browser and how it took to load a web page?

For the record, I checked all of the above for the choices I listed. I listed them from my own experience, and my own impatience. Although I should point out that the traffic light at Clayton and Brentwood roads in Clayton, Mo., the traffic light I have the pass through to get to church on Sunday, is a waiting abomination.

We don’t like to wait. None of us. Waiting is time wasted, and we have things to do, places to go, and people to see. We live and work at a frenzied pace, and we simply can’t afford to waste time – or have our time wasted. Especially by the traffic light when we’re already late to church.

God, however, is not an American. His definition of time is radically different from ours. His purpose in time is radically different from ours. That traffic light at Clayton and Brentwood may not be about wasted time at all, but something completely different.

In The Fire of Delayed Answers, Bob Sorge suggests that it has to do with the work God has planned for us. And the greater the wait, the greater the work. The Bible is filled with examples of waiting for what must have seemed like an eternity: Abraham and Sarah waiting for the promised son; Moses tending sheep in the wilderness (40 years!), the Israelites wandering around the wilderness (another 40 years!), David hiding out in the wilderness from Saul.

And then there was Saul, waiting for the priest Samuel to arrive, and finally doing what a lot of us would have done and said phooey on this, I’ll do it myself.

Saul’s aggravated “I’ll do it myself” response is one of the two typical responses to what we consider too long a time to wait for something. The other is succumbing to doubt, and then unbelief. Nothing is happening, so what was promised is clearly not going to be delivered.

We all wait for things large and small. Some of us are rich enough to pay others to do our waiting for us, but most of us have to wait. There is a purpose in waiting, and it’s not our purpose.

God uses waiting to prepare us for something we may not expect, something that will perhaps be even great.

I’m still trying to figure out the purpose of that traffic light, though.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading The Fire of Delayed Answers. Today concludes the discussion on the chapter “Waiting for Delayed Answers.” To see more posts, please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines.

Photograph by Adryana Nicoleta via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission. 


kchripczuk said...

"There is a purpose in waiting, and it’s not our purpose." That right there is the crux of the problem - the lack of control, the surrender to what is, that is inherent in waiting. And, "the bible is filled with people waiting" - yes, when I grow tired with my waiting, I find I have so many friends and examples in scripture. What I appreciate, also, is that many people in the bible, even the righteous ones, found the strain of waiting to be so great that they waited poorly - thinking of Abraham and Sarah who used Hagar to try to make things happen on their own.

Anonymous said...

If you grew-up in the midwest, you would think that the red traffic light, even at 2 am and no other car on the road, is for the timing to be right to keep you safe from something down the road.

But if you live in Chicago, you better step on the gas as soon as the light turns green or the driver behind you will stick their head out of the car, pound on the roof of the car while blowing the horn and yelling obscenities.

jasonS said...

"God, however, is not American." Yeah, that's great. :) Waiting can seem so cumbersome, but it's great to see how much is accomplished in those times. Maybe one day I'll even come to appreciate those times before they are over. Thanks Glynn.

David Rupert said...

I do not wait well. And often its because I don't trust God. And you are right about the stop light.

TC Avey said...

Our culture certainly does not like to wait. It's ingrained into us to "hurry". I like what you said, God is not American.
We need to stop trying to make Him into one by pressing Him to do things in our time.

Great post.