When I think about how many opportunities I/we have to practice waiting over the course of my/our lifetimes I cannot help but think we all must need it a great deal more than we wish or would ever want to count.
From the time we are born we learn we must wait for our mother to feed us, pick us up, change our diapers, bring us a toy, and more. Over and over again we are required to learn to delay gratification for something we want or need. Sometimes it is because it requires someone else. Sometimes it requires something of us that we don’t have or cannot acquire – at least not when we really want it.
This lifetime exercise reminds us repeatedly that no matter what our season of life or how independent we may think we are that we are dependent on others more often that we might wish. We are also dependent on God for provision and protection from a lengthy list of forces of nature, evil, illness, and more as we journey from life to death.
After all this practicing how well we handle waiting should be a skill we excel at, but for most of us that is not so much the case. Red traffic lights and heavy traffic when we are driving from one place to another can easily confirm that. Waiting in this season of a pandemic can remind us of that as well.
We inherently don’t like anything or anyone else to be in control of us and that seems to be innate.
Waiting practice has the potential to produce endurance in us and as we read through the Bible, we see that endurance is one of the characteristics evident in the stories of those we most revere. One of the things we discover is what Paul says will result from suffering and endurance that comes from waiting:
“…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)
These words point to the value of waiting practice.
God is interested in our character more than our convenience.
He also recognizes what character will produce in us – hope.
You may wonder how we get to hope from suffering, endurance, and character. I think the answer in part is that we learn to trust God over time and with much practice and learn that He is good even in the midst of suffering and seasons where we must endure hard things.
When I began this three-part series, I shared part of my story about waiting practice and that it had resulted in lessons that shaped the rest of my life and marriage. You might be wondering what some of those might be.
We certainly learned God was good and protected us over and over again and provided for us when life handed us a path neither of us would have chosen. We also learned to value life and time together as something that is never a guarantee and to keep short accounts with one another over things that were not really a big deal when everything was taken into account.
Those lessons and others impacted our choices of how we spent time and allocated money in our budget. They shaped how often we spoke words of love to each other and offered kindnesses when there was no special occasion.
When military service was over, waiting practice didn’t stop, but I think we both learned to chafe less often except for those traffic tie-ups none of us ever get used to or delays later in visiting children and grandchildren hundreds of miles away
Do we get impatient? Yes, but it doesn’t last as long as it once did because waiting practice has taught us to sift out more of what is important as we journey through life.
This pandemic with all its challenges, concerns, fears, and losses will not last forever, but what we learn during waiting practice until it ends, or we can move about freely will be a gift that we can grow from that will last a lifetime.