Waiting. Honestly, who likes to wait? While there is some type of thrill in the anticipation, at the end of the day, if I know that something great is coming, cue West Side Story, I am pretty much ready for whatever that something is to arrive. After all, if it is good, then it would be great to have whatever is intrinsically good about it sooner rather than later in my mind.
There is, of course, wisdom in not wastefully using up all the resources we have frivolously. If I have a 12 pack of Cheerwine, it is probably not a great idea to have them all at the same time. Instead, it is probably better to spread them out. If I drink them separately, I do get more enjoyment out of them than getting sick by drinking all of that carbonated goodness at one time. Plus, if we think about this in terms of economics, you can think about making decisions at the margin. In other words, how much additional enjoyment do you get out of one more of something. Let’s say I get 10 units of happiness from one Cheerwine. The second one, because I already have one in me, might only give me 9.5 units of happiness. By the time I get to the tenth, I may only get one more unit of happiness because of a decreasing marginal return.
It is not that anything has fundamentally changed about the Cheerwine. It is still wonderful, but it provides less additional happiness when I have more and more it. Therefore, if I am looking to maximize the happiness that Cheerwine provides me, maybe it is best to spread it out. I get 10 units of happiness 12 different times. I will not get all of it all at once, but my net gain of overall happiness will be greater.
This illustration works for just about anything, but it is a testament to the fact that perhaps there is some wisdom in waiting rather than consuming something all at once. Is it best to burn all of your money at once, or is it more beneficial to divide it over time to meet your needs?
Now, with that caveat out of the way, we can get back to the actual topic that I want to write about for you. We are going to be talking about waiting. I have been doing a lot of waiting recently for a variety of things. Like you read about in my post last week, I had been waiting for a medication approval for a very long time, and it finally came through. Still, I have a lot of other things that are still out there in limbo. Rumor has it I’m supposed to hear back about one of them this weekend, and if the results are favorable, I am sure I will mention it to you all at some point. There are the things I am waiting for, and I am trying to be patient.
Bottom line, I do not do well with waiting.
The bottom line for me is that when I consider our Christian walk, we are required to wait patiently many times. Think about praying the Lord’s Prayer. We ask for the kingdom to come and God’s will to be done. I don’t necessarily want to get into the theological debate right now as to what the kingdom actually refers to in this passage, but I think that it is pretty safe to say that whether or not God’s kingdom is a now, future, combination of both or any other way you take it, we are still fighting many battles today against the forces of evil. We eagerly await the day when the kingdom is all that remains and Satan and his demons are cast away forever.
We wait for God’s will to be done. Again, I am not trying to provoke theological debates here among my most excellent Calvinist readers, but at least to me, it seems that there are many things that people freely choose to do that are contrary to the will of God. Obviously, God can use that for good and does just that, His activity and His personal will is not bound by anything, but I am waiting for the day when God’s will is done by everyone, especially including myself who fails to do what God would have me to do on a daily basis.
My point through these unintentionally provocative illustrations is that the Christian walk is often times characterized by waiting. Again, I do not like to wait. But it seems like I kind of have to, and so you wonder what the purpose is behind that waiting. God never does anything without a reason. That would be contrary to His character. Therefore, it is up to us to try to understand why we have to wait.
I can’t promise you that I am a brilliant theologian or anything like that, but I do think the value in waiting is chiefly in the character building that takes place in the interim. I mentioned earlier about the thrill of anticipation. I don’t know that I find it thrilling, but anticipation does develop patience. Why does patience matter? Why does it matter if we are good at suppressing our desires to have something right now?
For me, I can’t help but think that the most valuable part of patience is that it helps us overcome our temporary desires. If we do not have patience, we are slaves to whatever we want at the time. Our appetites drive us. As Christians, that is not the way it should be. Instead, we should be driven by what God would have us to do. There may be many occasions where that is even contrary to what our own personal appetite or desires are (Jonah, looking at you). Jesus went to the cross, contrary to what I am sure His body was telling him. Nobody would want to go through that pain if they were simply answering to the stimuli in their body. If he had the ability to escape, which Jesus would have, you have to think that if He was simply responding to His appetite to avoid pain, He undoubtedly would. However, He held Himself to a higher standard, specifically submitting Himself to God’s will, not His own as He prayed in the garden.
I think that then as we consider waiting that seems to be inherent in Christianity and what purpose it may have, we really cannot escape the reality that patience is an important part of what we need if we are to become more and more conformed to the image of Christ. Specifically, this quality is an important part of our being able to overcome ourselves. We are called to do even more than that. We are told to die to ourselves daily. Part of our human desire is to want things right now, when we want them. It seems that patience points us in the right direction. It is not simply valuable for utilitarian purposes. Instead, it is valuable for character formation purposes, and that, if we are being honest, ought to be even more important to us than our utility.