Waiting can be productive
We don’t like to wait in line or at stoplights. One of my pet peeves is the driver who manages to get into the left lane of the interstate and go exactly the same speed as the vehicle next to it in the right lane, making it impossible for me to go as fast as I want. Why do we want to save time? So we will have more of it to do the things we really want to do which usually means cramming as much activity into the “saved” time as we possibly can.
Waiting is not something we’re good at in this. Part of our problem is our belief that waiting is a waste of time. It seems to be a time when nothing significant happens. The important thing, after all, is what we’re waiting for. If we can shorten the time it takes to get to the payoff, we feel that such a shortcut is good. If we can get that now, why wait? Now is better than later.
Christian waiting is not like waiting in line at the bank or waiting for an income tax return. It is not like treading water.
Christian waiting is not passive. Instead, it is an active waiting in which we prepare for what will be and ready ourselves for the coming of God’s Spirit. As Christians, we believe God has a future for us. Our active waiting consists in our preparing for that future by seeing what it requires of us. What attitudes and skills do we need to be developing now, so that when God’s future is ready for us, we will be ready for it?
Our waiting may be a corporate waiting, when we as a Christian community wait for God’s future. Or the waiting may be very personal—a waiting for the lab report from the doctor, or waiting for that person we long to know as a friend to respond to our overtures of friendship and love. In such waiting, there are two general questions we always need to ask. First, what in our past can we affirm as still viable for our future? Second, what in our past must we now be ready to give up in order to realize God’s future for us?
We always want our waiting to end sooner rather than later. We are always impatient to get on with things. But God’s time for us, like God’s time for Sarah and Abraham, Moses and David, may require later rather than sooner. Our waiting may be short or long. In either case, our waiting is sure, because the One we are awaiting is the Spirit of God, who is Lord of past, present and future.
God may not come when we want God to, but God always comes in time. We can therefore have confidence in our future, both as a Christian community and as individuals. We are awaiting the Spirit of God, and God always comes in time.
Editor’s note: The Rev. Dr. Scott Stewart is the pastor of Pea Ridge United Methodist Church and Brightwater Methodist Church. He can be contacted at revjstew[email protected] or 479-659-9519.