The Lost Art of Waiting
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. ~Psalm 27:14
We got our Christmas tree up! And as soon as the tree was up, the kids were asking every five minutes when we could decorate the tree. I explained how we had to wait. When asked why, I wasn’t really sure. I just remember Dad always saying something about letting the branches settle. My daughter watched the tree intently for a few minutes and then said, “The branches aren’t doing anything. Can we decorate the tree now??”
The next day (unable to take the pestering any longer) we decorated the tree. As soon as the tree was decorated, the kids ran to their rooms and disappeared for quite a bit- only reappearing from time to time asking for paper, a box, and some tape. My eldest was the first to emerge from his room with presents wrapped in printer paper that he’d colored on. A few minutes later and my daughter followed suit. They just couldn’t wait to put presents under the tree.
If you are a parent, you can already guess where this is going. “When can we open the presents!?” I was peppered with similar questions like a goose on waterfowl opener. I kept responding with, “We have to wait.” So of course they wanted to know why we wait, and I didn’t have a really good answer. I am just as bad, as soon as we put the presents under the tree I want to let the kids open them. I want to see those delighted little faces.
By the time my husband came home, I’m pretty sure I looked like I’d crawled through a bush backwards. The words, “Why do we have to wait?” were echoing in my head and I might have been drooling a little.
Why do we have to wait?
And maybe more importantly, why are we so terrible at waiting?
I don’t have to look far for an answer. My cell phone is sitting on the desk next to me while I type this. I don’t really think we wait anymore. Even if I’m at the DMV and need to wait for a half hour, I can email and make phone calls and get things done. I could even watch a movie or play a game. There is no waiting. No quiet time for reflection. Our society is a get-it-now, fix-it-fast society. It seems like a good idea… but…
If you want concrete proof that knowing how to wait is good, then google “The Marshmallow Test.” There was a study done in the late 60s, early 70s. Kids were given a marshmallow and told they could have that marshmallow now, but the adult would leave the room and if they waited until the adult returned, then they could have two marshmallows. Hilarity ensued. But the kids who were able to wait (“to delay gratification”) later in life did better on SATs and more. Interesting…
So partly because of these reflections, and also just because I need a little help- I’ve been making my kids wait (bwahahaha!)*. Instead of dragging them all out the door and into the car, I send them out first where they wait for me to gather the last of our supplies and then come out composed and happy (compared to the old version of yelling and frazzled). Just little things that help them work out what it is to wait for someone or something.
So, again I ask, is it important to know how to wait?
What does this look like for us, for our children? Is it important to know how to choose to be joyful instead of impatient? Is it important to know how to react kindly instead of selfishly? Is it important to know how to sit quietly instead of loudly complaining?
Because we can easily forget that we are a waiting people. Yes, Jesus already came and rescued the world, but we are waiting for his return. Our friends and neighbors are looking at us as an example of Christ. And we are walking through a world full of hurt and pain, and we are waiting for that promised future. So how do we want to show our friends and neighbors that we are a waiting and hopeful people? That we are trusting that God is who he says he is. That we believe in His Word.
How do we show that we are waiting, and full of hope and love?
Lord, this is not the season of presents and busy. This is a season for quiet reflection for what you have done. This is the season for hope and peace. The lights and noise can distract, the busy schedules can almost crush us at times. Forgive us for not having our priorities in order. And for those of us hurting through this season, who are grieving the loss of a loved one and missing those who are no longer on this earth- bring your comfort and joy afresh. Help us to seek out the only One who is going to really be able to heal and fill our hearts. I pray that our relationship with you would be like new, and we would be in awe of who you are and what you have done. In Jesus name, Amen
*Yes, I laugh like that from time to time. Mostly when my parenting becomes ridiculous.**
**So pretty much daily.