Friday, 30 September 2011

patience is a virtue: learning to "wait well"

I have recently discovered that, somewhat to my surprise, I am not a particularly patient person. Perhaps this comes as a surprise because I have always been perfectly content to wait for things like Christmas and birthdays (which is a mercy, considering that these two events fall within 8 days of each other...), with very little of the "I can't wait for...", which is so often heard on the lips of children, and indeed, adults! (I'm sure my estimable father will correct me if my memory is faulty at this point!) If it ever was heard, it would have been swiftly met with the instruction to "stop wishing your life away!"

Several things have started me thinking about what it really means to be patient, and how we might "wait well", particularly when it is God we are waiting for. The first was my own experience of waiting to see how God would provide for me while I'm on Relay (a discipleship and training program, which involves working with students and is run by UCCF: The Christian Unions). It is at this point that it is clear that waiting and trusting are very closely tied together. Perhaps I always found it easy to wait for Christmas and Birthdays because I always 'trusted' that they wouldn't fail to come around eventually! Whereas, while on Relay, even though it is something which I very much believe God has called me to, I find it so easy to forget the words of our Lord and give ourselves over to worrying, which will not achieve anything other than to make the waiting for God's gracious provision even harder! Clearly worry should never play a part in "waiting well".

Another thing which has continued my musing over "how to wait" is the story of Anna (Luke 2:36-38). This little gem is easy to miss in the great sweep of the infancy narrative, but there is a great challenge posed here by Anna's way of waiting. She has been widowed, probably since about the age of 20, and has spent the last 60 years of her life in the Temple, worshiping God. Finally when she is 84, Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple and Anna knows who this child is, she praises God and speaks about the child to all those waiting for Jerusalem's redemption. This is what Anna has been waiting for, but she has not been idle as she waits, she has not been "wishing her life away", though surely the longing for this moment must have been strong. Instead she has spent 60years investing in the best relationship of all. That she has spent her time worshiping God, night and day demonstrates her trust in His faithfulness to his promises. She "waited well" for 60years. How humbling to think on, when I feel like I'm doing well after only a few weeks, if I'm waiting for something which I trust will happen but know neither when nor how! From Anna we can see an example of how to "wait well" for our eternal home; by spending every minute of every day, delighting in the presence of God. No small task, but a life-giving pursuit and it ends in the coming of the one who is Life.

My final thoughts came about as I finished working my way through Exodus. My initial thought is that the Israelites were rubbish at waiting! For anything really, as is demonstrated by their continual moaning and complaining, and most starkly, by their hurry to make the golden calf when Moses goes up onto Mount Sinai. So a failure to wait, impatience, is characterised by a lack of worship of the Living God and a consequent seeking of something else to worship. Idolatry is what results when we do not "wait well", when we fail to trust God, despite what we have already seen of his power to fulfill his promises and rescue his people. The second thought that came to me, as I was ploughing through the 15 chapters of instructions on how to construct the Tabernacle, was that this was not a fast process (neither is reading it!), and that it was a very active form of waiting. As they build the Tabernacle and follow the instructions on priestly garments and washing practices, the Israelites are preparing for the presence of the Lord to dwell among them. In a sense the Lord is already with them - He has been throughout Exodus, guarding and guiding His people by His very presence. Yet they are preparing a place for Him, a specific dwelling. So too as we are waiting, already in the presence of God in Christ, we are preparing for His future coming, and the final revelation of his glory, just as the Israelites waited and prepared so carefully for the Presence of the Lord dwelling in the Tabernacle, a cloud by day, and a burning fire by night.

And so we live each day in His Presence, like Anna and the Israelites, waiting and preparing through worship (that is, following the call of Christ) for the final coming of our Lord, when He comes to dwell forever with His people.

No comments:

Post a Comment