When Life Drags Its Feet   2 comments

Patience was a virtue before the industrial revolution, but we’ve developed beyond that to aim rather for efficiency.  Waiting is passe.  In the old days we had to gather wood and build a fire to boil water, but then we invented electric stoves, followed by microwaves, and now (since we can’t wait 90 seconds) we have steaming water on tap.  We’ve discovered that frustration breeds progress–impatience is the new virtue.  All the important people are doing it.  I know I felt important–and righteous–when I was hurrying to do God’s work, but I think I missed a turn somewhere, because I seem to be stuck in the slow lane in God’s Kingdom… although, since I’m not even inching forward, maybe I’m in the back parking lot.

As I shared in my last post, I have never been good at waiting.  When God scheduled practice sessions, I played hooky, so I finally got sent to Waiting Boot Camp where I’ve been for a long time now because, apparently, I’m a slow learner. How ironic.  Waiting well is an art, and no one advances in it without first understanding its value.  What good does waiting offer?  Let me start by pointing out problems that come from not waiting.

First of all, there is the bad alternative solution, the shortcut that ends in a mess (ask Abraham about Hagar).  If the best solution requires more time, then every quicker solution is going to be defective.  It turns out that God’s not in a rush because he has all the time in the world (literally), and he’s savvy to the best rhythm. being both the composer and conductor of the symphony we call history.  In fact he IS the rhythm of history, so it’s kind of important that we get in sync with him. The point is to experience the music, not get to the end as quickly as possible. To play his music well, we must be as faithful to the musical rest as to the beat.  Timing is fundamental, good waiting is as crucial as good working.

Second, there is our own arrested development, the shortchanging of our own experience and growth, missing what God wishes to do in us and for us by having us wait.  When God has us wait, it is always for our benefit, never for our deprivation.  God does not have to bilk us in order to bless others, because his resources are limitless.  His one unwavering motivation for delay is expressed in his Son: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.”  We cheat ourselves when we rush ahead because our growth and fulness depend as much on our stillness as on our striving.  The first is just as active in shaping and satisfying us as the second.

Finally, there is the impaired relationship, because when two are out of step, their dance suffers.  Our motives for pushing ahead of God hurt our bond with him, whether that comes from doubt in his wisdom and love or from being too willful and inattentive or from fear or pride.  All of those pull us away from a trusting relationship.  The motives erode our connection and then the actions we take widen that fissure.  That is to say, capitulating to our fear is relationally harmful, and so are the actions we take in living out that fear.  When Abraham bedded Hagar to get a son, he not only side-tracked God’s plan and undercut his own faith, but he also distanced himself from God.  He was less able to hear him, to trust him, to receive from him, to delight in his presence.

So failure to wait hurts the objective, the person, and the relationship.

But if you are like me, God doesn’t speak clearly and audibly to give specific directions, so how can we know if we are missing his timing?  It is a dance.  Dance partners don’t have a running monologue, “Step to your left… step back… on the count of three, dip.”  Through a lot of practice and experience they learn to feel one another’s rhythms, patterns, and tells, and it is always more about moving together than getting the steps precise, more about trust and response than about rules and conformity.  But if we do not embrace the pause, the waiting, as well as the stride, we will likely miss our partner’s gentle guidance and stumble in the dance.  Waiting seems like doing nothing, but it is pregnant with power.  Doing and waiting are the inhaling and exhaling of life’s rhythmic progress.


Posted February 23, 2015 by janathangrace in thoughts

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2 responses to “When Life Drags Its Feet

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  1. I love this post. I have found that my strength for action comes from stillness. This morning I read in Bob Sorge’s Minute Meditations that eagles can only fly if there is wind, they can only fly because they have waited to catch the wind. I can see God is doing a good, deep work in you. Blessings

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