There have been times I thought patience a gift of mine, and other times I couldn't see past the thing I'd fixed my gaze upon, desperate for the kind of relief I thought it would bring. I've never been foolish enough to assume perfect happiness or contentment would come with the thing itself, but I did think it would abate the wait.
"Yes, but would you trade the thing you got," a few friends and acquaintances would say to me, when I would try to say how the thing didn't bring the satisfaction I thought it would. The question pricks at my skin and heart and I want to protest, and so doing, betray a defensive heart: I wouldn't trade it for all the world. But that doesn't mean it has brought the infinite joy and satisfaction they still imagine it would in their own wait.
Because there is always something else for which to wait.
This, the tyranny of the wait, is the plight of all—no matter your age, location, weight, marital status, parenthood status, career, or pursuit. We are all waiting for something and the thing for which we wait seems to both suffocate us and crush us in our waiting.
Twelve wants to be twenty-one. High-school wants to be college. College wants to be career. Career wants to go back to college. Single wants to be married. Childless wants to be with child. Stay at home parent wants to be an empty nester. Elderly wants to be young again.
I have never met a fully satisfied person and I have never been one either.
I have been thinking a lot of Jesus in the gospels this week, trying to point the way to the kingdom to a bunch of bumbling fools who followed him around waiting for the big hurrah and nearly missing it when it came. This is like the kingdom, he says, and this way to eternal life, and I go to prepare a place. This way, he's saying, again and again. The psalmist said, "Look up! Look up!" All some way of saying "You're thinking too small, you're settling for too little, you're messing about with mudpies in the slum because you cannot imagine the holiday at sea [Lewis]."
We're so desensitized to the wait because so many have what we want that we imagine it is normal enough to get, and once we have gotten, we set our eyes on another wait. I've fallen for it myself. I got marriage and after bumbling about for a few years, we've got a home, and kids would seem next. Well, we tried for kids from the start and it just didn't work out like we thought, but now we've been thinking lately: how much of our "What's next?" is prescribed by culture and expectations, and not by the tasks put in front of us by the sovereign God of the universe today?
I want to be a waiter, an expectant, active, jubilant waiter. But I want my wait to be for the One Thing and not the many things. God is a good Father who gives many good gifts, but not because we make lists, giving them to him and staying on our best behavior. He gives them to us because he's good—not because we are. And no amount of cajoling, pleading, or pointing at those to whom he's given the gifts will force his hand. He gives because he's good and withholds because he's good too.
When my friends and acquaintances ask, "But would you trade the thing you got?" I want my answer to be, yes, I would trade it for the One Thing we're all waiting for: Jesus.
O Lord, we wait for you;
your name and remembrance
are the desire of our soul.
My soul yearns for you in the night;
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.
I don't know what you're waiting for today, to grow up, to settle down, to have financial security, to get married, to have babies, to get good news, for your son to come home, for your husband to see you, for a hug, for a promotion, for joy. I don't know what it is, but God does. He sees and knows and is attentive to you in it. He also wants you to want him more than you want the thing you want.
That thing? It won't satisfy. I promise you it won't. I know this because I have never met a satisfied person. We're all still waiting, so let's all wait for the One Thing together.