Friday, August 04, 2006

When God makes us wait

I'm an impatient person. I want what I want when I want it... and that usually means NOW. I accept responsibility for this weakness in my character, but I also recognize that the world we live in encourages impatience in nearly every aspect of daily living. Look at the way we eat - we've gone from fast food restaurants to drive-through dining, from quick-and-easy dinners to complete dinners in a bag or box that we simply pop in the microwave. There's instant messaging, at-home pregnancy tests, nearly instantaneous news alerts 24 hours a day, and the list goes one.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against technology. I'm just saying that instant everything isn't helping me practice my waiting skills. One of the most striking examples of this is a phone conversation I had not too long ago while doing some contract work at a diabetes call center. I was speaking to a customer who was complaining that the 5 seconds that it took to receive her blood sugar reading was too long. My goodness! If I'm not mistaken, it used to be that diabetes patients would have to go to the doctors office, have their blood drawn, have the sample sent to the lab for analysis, the results returned to the doctor's office and then receive a call, days later with the test results... and now 5 seconds is too long?

How about people who complain about how long it takes to fly across country, particularly if you have to change flights in another city somewhere along the way. Imagine how whiny we must seem compared to the settlers who spent months making the same journey... Compare our challenges in a crowded airport with theirs and it doesn't take long to realize how spoiled we really are. Our perspective on time is being manipulated by the times we live in.

God knows this, and despite our impatience, our need for instant gratification, He loves us enough to encourage us to wait. Sometimes we listen to His gentle leadings. Sometimes more drastic measures are required to get our attention. Whether we're attuned to the gradual slowing down, or only respond to the grinding halt, when God says its time to wait, it's time for us to listen.

Why does God make us wait? There are many answers to that question. Some of those answers may be found in asking some of these questions of ourselves:
  • Is this really want I want... not just at this moment, but in the long run?
  • Are my motivations sincere and consistent with God's word?
  • Is what I want consistent with God's plan for my life?
  • Is now the right time?
  • Am I ready for the responsibility that comes with getting what I want?
  • Have I sufficiently prepared myself for this blessing?
  • Why is it so important to me to have this blessing right now?

I'm in a holding pattern for God and I think I'm beginning to understand why. I'm being forced to wait for something really big. As difficult as it is on some days, I'm choosing to walk by faith, not by sight, and to believe that God is moving heaven and earth on my behalf, and that even though I may not see anything happening, that doesn't mean that it isn't.

So instead of worrying about the wait, I've been praying that God will show me what I need to be doing during the wait. Perhaps these instructions will be helpful to you too:

Pause. This one may be obvious, but then again, if you're like me, stopping to be still is very difficult. But it is critical. It's impossible to know where you are if you're moving so fast that you can't even read the road signs. If you think you may be lost, you can't continue to drive and read your map at the same time. Sometimes we really do need to stop, take a look around, figure out where we are relative to where we want to be, and at least ask ourselves whether or not we're on course.

Pray. Another no-brainer, but one that sadly is easy to overlook when we're caught up in a whirlwind of anxiety, worry, self-doubt, anger, depression because we're not receiving the blessings we want when we want them. Of course it's important to ask God for the desires of our hearts. I think Joyce Meyer said it well when she said that "Prayers that aren't prayed will never be answered." But that's not enough. Supposed what we want simply isn't what's best for us? We may not know that. But God does. If we've been praying and praying for something and it hasn't happened yet, perhaps we should consider praying for God's will rather than ours. That's hard, and sometimes it's scary, but it helps to remember that God will not ask us to do anything or give us anything that He hasn't also given us the ability to handle.

Plant. The concept of seed faith is a fascinating one to me. I grew up believing in the Golden Rule, but I wasn't aware of the principle of planting seeds as a necessary prerequisite to receiving blessings. Those of us who want to reap extraordinary harvests (blessings) must, I repeat, MUST, plant extraordinary seeds in the lives of others. The gardening analogy is a perfect one to help understand this concept, particularly in the context of waiting. A gardener would never expect her crops to grow without planting seeds first. Once those seeds are planted, the don't grow into fruits, vegetables or flowers overnight, and rarely do they grow without significant help from the gardener. Those seeds require fertile soil, fertilizer, sunlight and water to grow. Our spiritual seeds are the exact same way. I've learned that the best way for me to receive a blessing is to be a blessing to someone else. Even if it's not a one-to-one exchange (and it usually isn't), I feel so much better than I do when I'm sitting around feeling sorry for myself.

Prune. If you've ever grown flowers, you know that pruning or dead-heading is important if you want to maximize the growth and bloom potential of your flowers. When I first started growing flowers, it was hard to cut back anything but the deadest of leaves. I couldn't understand how cutting my plants would results in even more blossoms. Once I decided to give it a try I was amazed at the results! It's the same principle that applies to getting deadends trimmed from our hair. Tell a woman who's been trying desperately to grow her hair that in order for it to grow she's going to have to get it trimmed. That's the last thing she wants to hear. But once she does it, she'll realize that those dull, dead split ends were depriving the rest of her hair of the nutrients it needed. Once the split ends are gone, the rest of the hair has room to grow!

So what does this have to do with our lives? If we look closely, each of us is likely to see dead or dying areas of our lives that are sucking the energy out of us (spiritually, emotionally and physically). Trust me, it is extremely difficult to welcome new blessings into our lives when our lives are already full of old habits (and perhaps people) that are sucking us dry. Take an inventory of your life while you're waiting. See if there's anything or anyone there that's displeasing to God or that simply no longer works for you. Think of it as cleaning your closet. It's hard to justify buying a great new wardrobe for the new you when your closets are full of old clothes. If you can no longer wear them, or no longer want to, let them go and make room for some new ones!

Prepare. If God were to give you that blessing right now, would you be ready for it? My guess would be that for most of us, the answer is "No". Perhaps we're praying for a bigger, nicer house. Are we taking care of the house that we have? Is it neat, well-maintained and clutter-free? Are we praying for more money? Are we tithing, paying our bills on time, and otherwise being wise financial stewards of the money we currently have? Think about it, if your children were always breaking their toys, leaving them around the house, or throwing them in a closet and never playing with them, would you be more or less inclined to buy them bigger or more expensive toys whenever they asked? I imagine that God feels the same way about us. Before asking for more, perhaps we should evaluate how we're using the blessings that God has already given us.

Praise. This is another one that is so important and so often overlooked. Many times we get so focused on what we want next from God that we forget to thank Him for what He's already done for us. No matter what our current circumstance, or how far we are from where we want to be, there still isn't enough time in the day to thank God for all that He has already done for us.

So there you have it... next time you get anxious in the wait, try a few of the suggestions here. It'll make the wait more worthwhile.


Mary said...

All good points. Thanks, Syd! :-)

Patti J said...

Thank you for your post. I am new to blogging. What a wonderful way to obtain wisdom.

You have bestowed wisdom to me today, and I just wanted to thank you.