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...the waiting game.


We humans have a wait problem. Obsessive about schedules, planning, to-do lists, velocity, complexity, and the challenges of virtual living, our meters usually expire before outcomes are realized. They used to call it the waiting game. But, we know it's no game. Waiting is an arduous, serious business.

Observe people in any waiting room or area. It's not actually a mental disorder, but people there usually exhibit waiting room anxiety, what some professionals define as a subtext of the "white coat syndrome", even when there's no white coat involved. They're locales characterized by the fidgets, the nervousness of uncertainty, the exasperation of the slowdown, and clock watching inaction. People at elevators punch the up or down buttons in frustration while they wait. Even at computer consoles we humans wince at micro-second search delays and strike the return key repeatedly when the system pauses for another nano-second. The line at Wal-Mart is the psyche-lab test market for people trying to fret while they wait. Ours is the culture of breathe, breathe, breathe. Waiting isn't the best human virtue.

It's a biblical theme too, this wait problem, and a spiritual dilemma as well. It was certainly evident in the reflections of King David. Many of his Psalms wrestled with his wait problem. Note these verses in Psalm 13---

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Psalm 13: 1,2 (ESV)

Habakkuk asked similar questions in the first verses of his Old Testament prophecy.

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!”

and you will not save?

Habakkuk 1:2, ESV

Most of us have been there, done that! This wait problem travels with us in the car, goes shopping with us, flutters around us when we're making phone calls, and mystifies us even in our prayer experiences. Waiting isn't my best quality. And, that poses an interesting question, especially for someone with my years. Yes, King David learned to say "I waited patiently for the Lord" (Psalm 40:1, ESV) in his personal spiritual development. But, kids, its a struggle for me. What is the deal here?

After years of study and analysis, my wait problem, to the best of my limited understanding, is the outcome of two spiritual deficiencies.

1. There's little patience blooming in my spiritual fruit.

2. Endurance is on the short list of my spiritual discipline.

Yes, patience is a spiritual fruit, that which should grow as a fruit of the spirit in my life.

Paul wrote about it---

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23, ESV

Which means that patience should be a natural outgrowth of the spirit's influence over my life. Being impatient so much of the time is an indication that something is amiss in my personal spiritual development, even after so many years of seeking it.

In the second case, I've discovered that I have little endurance when in a crisis of waiting. That's been an odd twist for me. Endurance has always been the grit of suffering, struggle, pain, perhaps persecution, and hardship in my understanding. It's been the stuff of hanging tough in the trials and difficulties of this life---cancer, chemo-therapy, the death of loved ones, the rigors of church leadership, and the many uncomfortable elements of life in a world like this one. Only recently has endurance been a viable biblical remedy for my wait problem. In this context I've reflected on a thought preserved for us by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews---

It is for discipline that you have to endure.

Hebrews 12:7, ESV

This may be somewhat out of context, but even twiddling my fingers till my number is called at the Department of Motor Vehicles is a teachable moment, a time to learn something about the discipline of waiting.

Being prepared to wait, therefore, involves the spiritual discipline of endurance, and the spiritual fruit of patience. And, they should be evident in a Christian with the miles I've logged. This wait problem isn't something I plan or schedule. But, it is a discipline and fruit for which I can prepare.

For me, it's about what the Apostle Paul wrote to his friend and apprentice Timothy. Again, it's little out of context but I should always remember to...

Be prepared in season and out of season.

2 Timothy 4:2, NIV

May it be so. Prayerfully.

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