It’s tough for us to wait. From the time we are young we dislike it, we war against it, and it frustrates us. Yet when we fail to see that waiting is crucial to who we are, we fail to see one of the most beautiful parts of our lives.
Christmas is a rough time of year for my youngest child. This little ball of energy, who normally cannot sit still for more than a moment and who is in perpetual motion, has to be told repeatedly to wait. Being told to wait isn’t anything new, but it seems like the amount of times we have to tell her to wait on things that she is excited about increases around the holidays. She has to wait to see family that she loves and is excited about seeing, she has to wait for the Christmas cookies to be done cooking, she has to wait to unwrap the gifts under the tree, she has to wait in line to see Christmas lights, she has to wait, wait, wait.
THE WAR ON WAITING
It seems that the world around us is at war against waiting. In fact, often the entirety of innovation around any product can be summed up in saying that the goal is to reduce waiting time for the consumer; to wait is bad, to not wait is good. This is true about everything from popcorn to internet access. Waiting has become the enemy. Even our time management skills are oriented around making the most of every minute. We are considered good managers of our schedule if we spend the least amount of time waiting. A confession; my computer unexpectedly shut down while I was writing this blog, and instead of waiting while it booted back up, I left the room to go do something else in order to make the most of my time.
We have been, and are being, programmed to view time waiting as time lost, time doing ’nothing’ as time foolishly spent.
The problem is, it isn’t working.
Instead of making us more productive, time management like this often makes us more busy with wasteful work, increases our anxiety, and raises our stress levels. I would submit that in most cases, it also reduces our ability to come up with good ideas. In fact, in a recently published infographic, we can see how many of history’s greatest thinkers actually set aside time to do activities that today we may consider wasteful; time doing ‘nothing’. We often equate time waiting as time doing ‘nothing’.
Not only do we see this idea of waiting reflected in the world around us, we find it reflected often in scripture. In fact, waiting is not only part of who we are as members of humanity, but integral to our faith as believers in Christ. We see this idea of waiting all throughout scripture and God intends for us to have a deep and intimate relationship with it and a full understanding of what it means to wait.
Waiting is especially important to us as Christians at this time of year. Many of us celebrate Advent, which usually means we reflect on how the Israelites waited for and looked forward to the day when their rescuer, the Messiah, would come and release them from bondage and oppression. We see in that waiting the reflection of our own waiting on Christ to come again and make all things new and restore our broken world. But shortly after the New Year, the celebration of Advent will end, and most of us won’t reflect on it again until next Christmas season.
As followers of Christ, we must embrace what it means to wait, not only for the return of King Jesus, but in every circumstance in our everyday lives.
Every day we are confronted with moments waiting, where we must make a choice to sit idly or to find some way to spend our time. Often we are wasteful in these moments, checking our email, glancing at social media, or finding out the latest news or gossip; we fail to see that these moments of waiting can be a blessing for us. We have the opportunity to redeem these moments of waiting and we often fail miserably with filling them with worthless activity.
We fail to see that these moments can be redeemed and used for a much-needed rest; a deep breath or two to help us slow down; a quick prayer; reflecting on a scripture; or, a moment in silence and stillness.
NO STRANGER TO WAITING
In the overarching meta-narrative of scripture, God’s people are people who wait, and who wait well. Scripture is thick with evidence of the waiting of God’s people, especially in the Psalms.
Amidst this clear view into our soul, we see repeatedly how often we are found waiting;
“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation for you I wait all the day long.” Psalm 25:5
“May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.” Psalm 25:21
“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:14
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…” Psalm 37:7
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” Psalm 39:7
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1
“…I will wait for your name, for it is good…” Psalm 52:9
“O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress.” Psalm 59:9
“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” Psalm 62:1
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.” Psalm 62:5
“I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” Psalm 69:3
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning…” Psalm 130:5-6
Sometimes we wait in desperation, sometimes in silence, sometimes in noise.
Sometimes we wait happily, sometimes we wait miserably.
Sometimes we wait alone, sometimes we wait with those we love.
REDEEMING OUR TIME
Waiting is a part of who we are as followers of Christ. When we feed this inability to wait, we are robbing our souls of precious needed time.
While every moment we spend waiting isn’t necessarily time spent waiting on God for rescue, every moment we spend waiting can be redeemed to something more beautiful and beneficial for us.
We wait in checkout lines, we wait for our food to arrive, we wait on our spouses, we wait on our children. In these moments of waiting, if we are constantly filling that time with something less-than, we are destroying our ability to see and understand what it means to be patient and wait and we are feeding our desire for instant gratification.
Our waiting blesses us by producing and strengthening our hope and our faith.
The Psalmist in Psalm 33:20-22 says, “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”
James writes, telling us of steadfastness, of being strong in our waiting; “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
Even Christ reminds us that the whole of our lives are spent in waiting; “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.” Luke 12:35-36
This year, let the waiting that you reflect on during the Advent season carry through.
Embrace what it means to wait, not only for the coming of our King Jesus, but in the smaller moments of your life. Set aside time wasted in those moments and redeem them; train your soul to understand and cherish the waiting, for each of these smaller moments is a reflection of the waiting we experience as we wait for the complete redeeming of our world by a King who promises that our waiting is not in vain.
“Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame…” Psalm 25:3