Comments Off on Waiting

Blogger Steve Goodier recently recounted an anecdote from the earliest days of international air travel.

In the 1930’s, Britain’s Imperial Airways pioneered flights from England all the way to the Pacific.  Unfortunately, the company’s fleet of underpowered and undersized aircraft had to make many stops in between.

One of the tongue-in-cheek expressions of the day, “If you have time to spare, go by air,” was an admission that flying wasn’t yet the smooth and uneventful experience to which we have grown accustomed.

One of Imperial’s first England-to-Australia flights departed Croydon Airport near London.  It hopped the English Channel and landed in northern France, where it was delayed extensively by inclement weather.  The next stop was southern France, where one of the engines failed.  Passengers and crew had to wait days for a new engine to be sent by sea from England.

There were subsequent delays in Rome, Cairo, and makeshift airports across the Middle East.  The plane finally landed in Singapore.  At this point a female passenger asked an Imperial representative if he thought the flight would arrive in Australia within the next few weeks, since she was expecting a baby.

“My dear lady,” he said brusquely, “you should never have commenced your trip in that condition.”

She replied, “I didn’t.” 

Waiting is not one of our culture’s inherent strengths.  We are addicted to speed: faster fast food, same-day deliveries, and urgent upgrades to 5G (because who wants to be slowed down for even a few extra seconds). 

In his book A Geography of Time, Robert Levine proposes the creation of the smallest unit of time known to humanity – the honko-second, which he defines as “the time between when the light changes and the person behind you honks his horn.” 

One of the most eye-opening discoveries for beginning Bible students is that God rarely moves at our frantic pace.

Even though God is endowed with all the power in the universe, and often announces exactly what’s going to happen next, he sometimes compels his people to wait just a little bit longer.  Or perhaps a whole lot longer. 

God declares that Abraham and Sarah will have a baby in their old age.  But they have to wait another 24 years for it to happen.  The Hebrews will live in Egypt for a while, after which God will call them out.  But 430 years come and go before the Exodus finally begins.  Journeying at last to the Promised Land – a trip which scholars believe could have been accomplished in about three weeks – the ex-slaves end up wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.   

Why does this keep happening? 

Author and pastor Ben Patterson points out that what God accomplishes within us as we wait is often just as important as what we are waiting for. 

Disciples of Jesus are lifelong learners of the Son of God.  That means we intentionally imitate what he says and does.  What’s often overlooked, however, is that we’re also called to imitate his entire approach to life – which includes the reality that the Gospels never present Jesus as panicked, hurried, or desperate. 

God is patient.  God waits.  And his people are called to wait, too. 

We can see this in one of the most celebrated texts from the Old Testament prophets:  “Even youths grow tired and weary, and the young will fall exhausted.  But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.  They shall soar on wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:30-31)

Interestingly, Isaiah’s words of encouragement don’t depict an accelerating pace of life.  That’s what we might expect.  We’re used to things going faster, after all.  Isaiah instead describes a deceleration.  First we soar.  Then we run.  Finally, we walk. 

The only way to keep pace with Jesus, so we don’t end up running past him, is to slow down.  To walk.  And whenever God deems it necessary, to wait. 

The good news, of course, is that waiting doesn’t mean God has stopped caring about whatever we’re facing.

Whenever we stand in need of what God alone can provide, he’ll be there.

In a honko-second.