The Waiting Game

Janis Buelow   -  

By DCE Janis Buelow (Christian Growth Associate)

I hate waiting.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself – “Janis, everyone hates waiting in some way.” And you know what? You are absolutely right.

Our lack of willingness for waiting has become an epidemic; when I was younger (and that wasn’t quite that long ago), I used to be willing to sit through almost ten to fifteen minutes of advertisements that broke up a TV show I watched three or four times. I used to wait my obligatory three or four days, sometimes longer, before going to the library with my mom to pick out the next new-ish movie to check out and watch with my family. Waiting in four- or five-hour lines for anything was the “norm.”

I don’t think it’s just me. I remember not even a year or so more after those previous examples of waiting that businesses started creating ways to make us wait less. In 2007, Apple came out with the iPod Touch – an mp3 player that let you listen to your favorite songs on the radio constantly without having to wait for it to play again or buy a full fifteen song CD or cassette for the one song you liked and had to skip past the others to listen for it. Soon after that, the mobile phone spread nationwide, destroying years of landline usages, and creating instant conversations in your pocket instead of having to walk across the house or to the nearest landline hook-up. We went from walking to the library for movie rentals to using a website to send DVD’s directly to our houses – a concept that expired in less than five years to make way for our current conveniences. YouTube became popular, and the concept of short, in-your-hands video production started booming.

Now, we can purchase the ability to skip the waiting. We can pay to have ad-free streaming services, faster internet, and even bookstores are starting to go out of business because we can download cheaper books immediately to our tablets. Going to an amusement park has become a one-day affair due to the ability to purchase fast-passes (which get you a “ten minute or less” wait in theme park rides). We can ship items to our house in under a week and I’ve seen news reports of people being upset that two-day shipping is taking longer than usual.

For our children, as a student in the past I can remember shifting from mail-letter test results that took a week or more to come back, to having them instantly appear in under two days in my email. When I was accepted into college, I got an email notification before I received my admissions packet in the mail. It became normal to apply for school and financial aid online instead of sending in packets of filled out paper and transcripts by the deadline, and the newest edition is the ability to email your transcripts from one college to the other without having to wait. I can’t imagine how converting so many tests and homework assignments online have changed education even further into one of constant payoff and not a lot of waiting.

Now, as I sit here in my very cold house after our power went out due to the ice storm that happened the day of our Ash Wednesday service, I find myself in a completely different scenario and a strange realization – I’m having trouble practicing patience.

I used to be an expert in patience. I could make myself busy by reading, playing little travel games with myself, or finding small hobbies for short term lines. Now, I can feel myself get irritated when it takes longer than a day to receive an email back, a phone call, or even a package in the mail having a longer estimated time of arrival than I want. I’ve really been waiting only four hours since waking up for our power to be back on and less than a day from applying for the first step in a secondary schooling opportunity while waiting now to hear back from admissions so I can complete my application, but I can feel that subtle irritation creeping in. But what is so strange to me, is that patience is the longest game a Christian can make, and we are absolutely failing at doing it.

God asked the Israelites to wait for the promised land in Genesis. In fact, he asked for decades before they even made it to the land of Canaan – albeit many of the issues being the hardened hearts of the Israelites. He asked Abraham and his descendants to wait for the Messiah, and it took quite a bit of time before Jesus came in the New Testament. He’s asked us to wait for Christ to return in yet another form of a waiting game – and to do so while also spreading the Gospel of the Good News – our salvation.

But how can we practice patience?

Well, for one, God has already given us scenarios to practice. Those tiny irritations that we have are great ways for us to reframe our minds. Rather than going into them with the mindset of frustration, we can think of other people who have had to wait, and especially those from the Bible who have had to wait. For myself, I think of how God’s timing is ultimate – everything happens for a reason. If I haven’t heard back from certain things quite yet, I ask myself if I can wait a little longer. Of course, I mean less of putting my heart before God and more of looking at what the outcome really is. Think of it as a reading of the heart – if things are hard, and getting answers or putting more on your mind will create more anxiety, it’s okay to tell yourself, “I’m going to wait to deal with this and give myself a break. God has this situation and I need to use this time to remember that.”