I can usually “talk a good talk” when it comes to Advent and waiting. But truth be told, I’m not very good at real-life waiting. When I’m preparing lunch or dinner, I will often gravitate toward a meal that takes less time to cook. When I decide I want to buy something, I would rather go to a store and pay more so I can get it today, than to order it for less online and wait for it to arrive. When I get to the store, I will endure the automated annoyance of the Self-Checkout so I won’t have to wait in a long line (“I DID place the item in the bagging area, you silly computer!!”). I pay with a credit card, using money I haven’t yet made, so that I don’t have to wait until I have the money. I’m addicted to instant results.
So this part is hard. I wish we could have turned our papers in to the Embassy and gotten our answer right away! But it doesn’t work that way. So now, we wait.
Have you noticed that God did not build “instant results” into his creation? According to the story in Genesis, it took six days to create the universe… and things have been in development ever since. Forests take decades to grow, and are always regenerating themselves. Animals stay in a womb or egg for several weeks or months, then take even longer to fully mature. Things we take for granted daily – from the food on our tables to the gasoline in our cars – took months, years, or even millennia to come to fruition.
I’m sure there are some examples of things in creation that happen quickly, but I can’t think of them right now. We usually reserve the terms “miracle” and “phenomenon” for these types of happenings.
The spiritual life is not instant, either. Prayer is not an ATM machine – put the right “code” in and get out what you want. Even when we do get what we want, it never simply falls from the sky the moment we say “amen.” When we’re “born again,” it takes even longer to mature spiritually than it took for us to mature physically. And as a human race, our understanding of God is still incomplete – theology has been developing and changing for as long as humans have been thinking about God. I can’t imagine that all those places in the scripture when we are urged to “wait on the LORD,” are only spiritual platitudes.
God did not build “instant” into any part of our experience as human beings – we’ve added that ourselves (much of human striving is an effort to do things more quickly and efficiently). This is probably not a coincidence. Do we miss something important when we take short cuts – like shooting off a text or an email, instead of arranging a face-to-face conversation? Do we lose our ability to appreciate things when we can get them instantly – the bread on our counter, for instance, that took weeks to grow and harvest, and hours to prepare and bake?
As annoying as it is, there must be something to this idea that important things take time. And I have the feeling it’s not going to be an easy thing to regain. Maybe it requires a change in our perspective – thinking of the process as “giving it time to mature” rather than “waiting for it to be ready.” Maybe it requires building some time into our lives of simply waiting and watching, rather than filling up the dead space with busy-ness and noise.
It might be difficult, but I have the feeling we’ll see a big change in ourselves if we are willing to wait!