Friday, February 21, 2014

Waiting for Patience (And I Want It Now!)

I've been reading through the Psalms for my personal devotions recently and stumbled upon something this week that caught my attention. It was the idea of waiting.

Psalm 31 and 33 are both psalms of praise. The writer (or writers) gives thanks for God's blessings and answer in times of trouble, but both psalms end with exhortations to "wait with hope for the Lord" as if God hasn't shown up yet. "Be strong, all who wait with hope for the LORD, and let your heart be courageous," says the first. The second ends with the words, "Let your mercy rest on us, O LORD, since we wait with hope for you."

The writer of these Psalms is praising God not because God has shown up, but because he expects God will show up. Instead of giving thanks for what God has done, he is giving thanks for what he hopes God will do. When was the last time I gave a rave review for a movie before I watched it? Or passed along compliments to the chef before the waiter brought my meal? And yet that's what the psalmist is saying. "Sure things may be bad, but isn't it awesome what God will probably do?" It's almost like Lando Calrissian telling Admiral Ackbar, "Han will have the shield down!" except he's smiling and striking a yoga pose while he says it.

In our immediate response, quick satisfaction society, have we lost our ability to wait? I like to think of myself as patient, but I get anxious when someone doesn't reply to an email or text in a time frame I think is reasonable. If a web page takes more than one second to load, I get frustrated. And if I say a prayer to God and don't get what I think is a reply by the end of the day (or sooner), I feel ignored. I certainly don't take the time to sit down and write a psalm and end it with, "Chill out. God will show up."

As I think about it, the other word that shows up in both Psalms is "hope," which is probably related to the patience they show. Hope based on trust and past experience certainly helps give me patience. However, in this skeptical, I'll-believe-it-when-I-see-it, show-me-the-money age, I wonder how much hope is a trait I need to learn rather than an instinct to which I default?

I guess I envy the psalmist since patience and hope seem to be so natural for him when they often feel more alien to me. Perhaps it's a spiritual "growing edge" for me to address. All of which raises an interesting, zen-like question: If I pray for God to give me patience and hope, when should I expect an answer?

“I hope the days and clouds turn into something as they pass us by.” -Jars of Clay, "These Ordinary Days"

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