Ok, by a show of hands, who here considers themselves good at waiting? Anyone? Someone? You, ma'am? Definitely not the guy who's been in line behind me for three hours who is very apparently about to lose his junk at the well-oiled machine that is the DMV.
Waiting is not our forte. We want everything fast, then when things happen fast, we want fastER. Even our fast food can't come fast enough, as is evidenced by the little clock that ticks at the pickup window of our local Taco Bell, promising me a free meal if the teenaged, minimum-wage employees inside can't complete our order in under two minutes. Which of COURSE they can't do, because one of my kids wants soft tacos with NO tomatoes, the other wants crunchies with EXTRA tomatoes, and God forbid either of them have sour cream. Picky children = a lot of free Taco Bell meals.
An aside: I know you've been to Taco Bell, too, cause I saw you pulling out of the parking lot the other day with your baseball cap pulled low and large sunglasses hiding your face, attempting to make your Chalupa run incognito. It's ok. You've been found out. You buy fast food occasionally. #OwnIt
It's made apparent in the "are we there yets" that assault my eardrums on family road trips. In the sense of indignity I feel if I make an order through Amazon Prime and don't have the option for free same-day delivery. In the weeping and gnashing of teeth that ensues when I tell my children, YES, we can definitely go see Finding Dory, but only once it comes to our local dollar theater, 'cause mama won't drop a crisp hundy for our family of five to have a magical experience at the AMC.
No, we don't like to wait. Yet life's waiting room is where we find ourselves more often than not. We live so much of our lives in the in-between, and we feel a lot like that guy behind me at the DMV.
The fascinating thing is, we are children of a very patient Father, and He is all about our waiting. Not because He's cruel or sadistic, or because He's constantly testing us to see just how long we can contain ourselves before we spontaneously combust from impatience. No, He's all about our waiting because it's in our waiting that we grow the most, and God cares more about our growth than He does about giving us what we think we want or need.
I catch a glimpse of God's heart for me in the waiting each time I send my five-year-old to time out.
A few days ago my littlest little pulled on his big-boy britches and decided to talk to me like I was his peer instead of his mother. While I was cooking dinner, I gave him an instruction, and he looked at me and said, "NO."
He knew immediately that he wasn't ready for the big leagues, cause he started laughing nervously and said, "Just kidding, Mommy. I was kidding."
I gave him "the look," then said gently but firmly: "Go to your room right now. You've earned a time out for your disrespectful attitude. I want you to think about how you can be more respectful to Mommy in the future, and I'll be up in 10 minutes to talk about this with you."
He burst into tears and ran upstairs to his bedroom while I stood in the kitchen trying not to laugh. I heard his door shut and set the kitchen timer for 10 minutes, then went back to chopping veggies.
I enjoyed peace and quiet for all of 60 seconds until suddenly I heard a tiny, smushed-up voice coming from under the crack of my son's bedroom door: "HAS IT BEEN 10 MINUTES YET???"
For. The. Love.
"No, son, it HASN'T been 10 minutes yet. Sit quietly in your room and think about how you can be more respectful to me in the future. I don't want to hear ANOTHER WORD!"
Again, peace and quiet. For a minute. Then, "HAS IT BEEN 10 MINUTES YET???"
Now MY patience is wearing thin, and I yell back, "YOU'LL KNOW IT'S BEEN 10 MINUTES WHEN I COME UPSTAIRS TO TALK TO YOU. DO NOT ASK ME AGAIN!"
Again, chopping. Again, "HAS IT BEEN 10 MINUTES YET???"
If I didn't have Jesus, I'd have unleashed on the kid. Even with Jesus I was close to becoming a Dateline mom, the one who hopped in her car and drove off, never to be seen or heard from again. Which reminds me, if you ever can't find me, I'll be on a beach somewhere in St. John. Or in a restaurant on St. John. Actually, look in restaurants on the beach in St. John.
I managed to keep myself somewhat in check, and I hollered back at him, "SON, YOU'VE NOW EARNED AN EXTRA FIVE MINUTES FOR CONTINUING TO ASK ME IF TIME'S UP! SIT QUIETLY AND THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN LEARN RIGHT NOW, AND I'LL BE UP IN A WHILE! IF YOU ASK ME ABOUT THE TIME AGAIN, I'LL ADD FIVE MORE MINUTES!"
I chopped, marinated, and sautéed. I did some dishes. I folded some laundry. All was quiet. Then about 40 minutes later I heard a meek, "Has it been 10 minutes yet?"
Oops. Please tell me I'm not the only mom who forgets her kids in time out.
As frustrating as situations like that are, they give me a glimpse into the heart of God. As a good Father who knows what's best for us, He often puts us in time out, not necessarily because we've done something wrong, but because there's something He wants us to learn, and He knows the only way we'll do so is if we take pause, get quiet, and be still.
He tells us to take 10 minutes (or weeks, or months, or even years), and to consider what He wants to teach us, how we can grow. And we do consider it, for a moment. Then we feel like we've done enough thinking and growing and we yell, "HAS IT BEEN 10 MINUTES YET???"
Again He says wait. And again we wait, impatiently. Trying to cram in a life lesson so we can prove we've learned something and move on to the next season or thing. I'm the queen of telling God, "I'm a fast learner, so let's make this lesson brief."
We consider the monumental moments in life to be our greatest milestones, while God focuses on the quiet, seemingly insignificant daily grind. We focus on getting from point A to point B, while God focuses on the space between. We see our seasons of time out as punishment, a seemingly endless cycle of captivity and not hearing clear direction from the Lord, while He sees our time outs as the only things that truly prepare us for what's to come.
Waiting shapes our character. Waiting shakes our faith and shows us what it's made of. Waiting reminds us that we're loved by God just as we are, and that we don't have to accomplish "big things" to belong to Him. Waiting forces us to slow down and listen for His voice. Waiting gives us the chance to learn and grow like nothing else.
Waiting isn't a posture of passivity; it's a purposeful and active seeking after the heart of God.
As our Father, He always has His eye on the clock, and He knows just how long we need before He opens the door and ushers us out of the waiting room. He's never early and never late; He's always perfectly on time. We can trust Him to come and get us when it's been 10 minutes, but instead we sit like this:
Scripture is full of instances where God's children had to wait. Lazarus' sisters had to wait on Jesus to heal their brother. Sarah had to wait on God to give Abraham and her a child. The Israelites had to wait on a place to call home. Job had to wait on deliverance from the Lord. Paul had to wait multiple times in prison, unsure of what was to come.
Some of them waited well. Some didn't. The waiting happened all the same, but those who waited well came out looking more like their Father.
Let's joyfully take our time outs as God gives them to us, and let's commit to actively seek the heart of God in the quiet stillness. Let's take our eyes off the clock and remember this:
Let's remember even more that He loves us in spite of our impatience (He knows we won't always get the waiting thing right), and that He probably has to stifle a giggle or two when we hears us holler under our doors with our lips smushed to the carpet, "HAS IT BEEN 10 MINUTES YET???"