From The Garden Bench - Waiting
Words by David Hollows
How good are you at waiting? How do you cope in a motorway delay or when the bus or train is late? Are you patient or exasperated?
Do you tolerate others you know who are regularly late? What has been your response to waiting in a queue as part of the lock-down? Have you gone early to your food store in order to be at the front of the queue and avoid waiting in the heat or the rain? What has been your experience and response? In our culture we have become accustomed to the ‘instant’; pizza delivery, Amazon same-day delivery, click and collect. The image of the recent queue outside an Ikea store for three hours would send some of us into orbit. Who would have imagined that we would have to queue outside shops in our society?
Waiting is very much part of our life perspective. Some of us have no issue with having to wait or queue as the experience can be used for other purposes; a welcome stop in our busy lives, time to think, an opportunity to talk with a stranger in the same predicament, even at a distance of 2 meters.
It is all to do with perspective.
Photo by Joshua Earle via Unsplash
In the Bible there is an account of these issues of waiting, delay, lateness and perspective in the Gospel of John chapter 11;
Jesus received the news that his good friend, Lazarus, had died. The disciples and the family of the deceased expected Jesus to go immediately to the family home but Jesus delayed. Jesus waited 4 days before He made the journey and His lateness caused extra pain for the sisters of Lazarus. Jesus had a different perspective on the situation. In Jewish thinking it took 3 days for the soul to leave the body and for the process of death to be completed. On the fourth day, when Jesus commanded Lazarus to come back to life, this was a sheer miracle for which God received the glory for this impossibility.
It is all to do with perspective of which there are 2 categories;
A ‘Prison’ perspective which involves the short term and how we see life now as it is. This can also involve delay, waiting and lateness which can place great demands on us and our outlook.
A ‘Passport’ perspective involves the long term. This includes examining the possible outcomes of the current situation can be in the future; if waiting in a motorway delay, using the time to pray.
In the Lazarus story the delay of 4 days meant that everyone knew that Lazarus would be dead. One of the sisters reminded Jesus that there would be the smell of death when the burial chamber was opened. Jesus was also informed that He could have prevented the death had He come earlier. Here are two examples of ‘prison’ perspective. However, Jesus has a different perspective, the passport type, as He knows that the resurrection miracle of His friend will bring a whole new dimension to the thinking of those in that situation and liberate them to draw closer to God.
Sometimes, perspective means not what we see but what God sees.
And sometimes this helps explain why God is late.
Mushtabar (name changed) was an Iranian Christian. The first time he was arrested for his faith, he was in solitary confinement for 22 days, time he usefully spent with God. Upon release Mushtabar joined an underground house group whose members regularly met, waiting and knowing that one day they would be arrested. The knock on the door to the house came one day at 8.00p.m. and all 25 Christians were arrested. Mushtabar was given a 3 year sentence during which time a Bible was smuggled to him for him to use to instruct others around him in the faith and encourage others to come to faith.
A ‘prison’ perspective in that situation for Mushtabar could have meant a time of self-pity and denial of faith. A ‘passport’ perspective meant that Mushtabar was able to encourage others, increase their faith and witness to others to come to faith.
How is your faith perspective?
When you ask God for something in prayer and God is late with the reply or He does not give you the answer you expect, what is your response? When you are next in a situation of delay or wait, will you ask God to show you how to use this valuable time?
It’s not what you see but what God sees and your time is in His hands.
You may find the following hymns useful; I am waiting for the dawning (Mission Praise 262) Will your anchor hold in the storms of life (Mission Praise 770) Soon and very soon (Mission Praise 605)
Photo by Tom Vanderheyden via Unplash
You may find the following prayers helpful;
God of surprises, when we think you are not present with us then reveal yourself to us in the love of friends and family and nurture us in your never-ending affection. God of surprises, when we think you are not present in our community then work to make us of one heart and cause us to share gladly and generously. God of surprises, when we think that you are not present in our world then bring hope out of despair and growth out of difficulty. God of surprises, you are ever with us.
You keep us waiting, you, the God of all time. You want us to wait for the right time in which to discover who we are, where we must go, who will be with us and what we will do for you. So, thank you for the waiting time. You keep us looking, you, the God of all space. You want us to look in the right and wrong places for signs of hope, for people who are hopeless, for visions of a better world which will appear among the disappointments of the world we know. So, thank you for the looking time.
You keep us loving, you, the God whose name is love. You want us to be like you; to love the loveless, unlovely and unlovable, to love without jealousy, design or threat, to love ourselves. So, we thank you for the loving time. And in all of this, you keep us through the times of hard questions with no answers, through the times of failing when we hope to succeed. You keep us through the patience, the dreams and the love of others. You, our God, you keep us. Thank you.
God bless you