Which is harder for you—the beginning of a waiting period or the end?
My grandson was born April 5th and I have yet to see him. The waiting is driving me crazy. He was born in the middle of the Coronavirus shelter-at-home edict, so we knew the 1500-mile trip by car or by plane was out of the question. So, we settled in for the wait.
I suppose the answer to my question is different for each person and dependent on the situation. The middle of the wait can feel like the backstretch of a running track. With no end in sight, we hit a wall of despair, wondering if this journey will ever end. Once we turn the bend of our trek, we’ll see the finish line and that give us a second wind of hope.
So I thought.
For the first few weeks of quarantine, Preacher Creature and I resigned ourselves to the status quo, accepting that maybe the first couple of weeks weren’t the best time for grandparents to be around anyway. Now we see signs of the virus slowing and hear talk of the relaxing of restrictions, coupled with that baby’s ever emerging personality, and I’m here to tell you, I’m more antsy than ever. I’m worse than a kid watching Christmas displays go up. Seeing my grandson is real, it’s possible. It’s gonna happen. And I just don’t think I can wait one more minute.
The closer we get to the moment, the harder it is to wait.
Runners have that problem. You’ve heard of the false start? So pumped to get going, runners “jump the gun” and break out of the block before the signal. I think all of us are feeling the adrenaline right now. We’re seeing signs of a returning economy. Churches are opening up. Restaurants are rearranging furniture to handle a socially distant crowd. And we’re all compiling that list of what we’ll do first when the signal sounds.
Eagerness can turn into impatience.
I’m already hearing cries of “Open the door and open them wide!” Yet some people caution about opening everything at once, fearful of a second wave of COVID-19 infection. Those of us who have waited for jobs, grandsons, haircuts, and church services tap our feet and clench our fists. Can we please just get back to normal?
Our generation isn’t the first to experience the impatience of the waiting game. Two Old Testament figures couldn’t stand the wait and paid dearly for it.
- After ten years, Abraham, tired of waiting for God to fulfill his promise for a son, caved to his wife Sarah’s idea, and slept with her maidservant, Hagar (see Genesis 16). The world still suffers from the conflict between Isaac and Ishmael.
- Tired of the wait when the prophet Samuel didn’t show up at the appointed time, King Saul chose to go forward with battle plans despite what Samuel had instructed (I Samuel 13). He started to offer burnt sacrifices, a task only a priest could do. Then a dismayed Samuel showed up. Because Saul failed to obey God’s instructions, Samuel told him, Saul’s descendants would not inherit the kingdom.
How should we wait when what we want is so close but not close enough?
Jesus had some answers on how to handle the wait, no matter when the Moment arrives.
This is so counter-intuitive. Our impulse is to stop, read the latest news bulletins, twiddle our thumbs, and peer into the future. We play mind games trying to convince ourselves that the Big Event is still far off so we might as well sit back and enjoy the vacation. The wise servant, Jesus said, keeps working, looking at the needs of the day and carrying out assigned responsibilities (see Mt 24:48-50). This is such practical advice as I wait to visit my grandson, as we wait for the economy to open, and as we wait for Jesus to return. The work of the day is still here, people have needs, and God has called us to do certain jobs.
I don’t get too hung up on calculating the day of Jesus’ return or whether I should believe in a premillennial, postmillennial, or amillennial viewpoint of the Second Coming of Christ. As a good friend once said, I’m pro-millennnial. I believe Jesus will come and until He does, we’ve got lots of work to do. If we slack off during the wait time, we could miss so many opportunities to do good in the world and spread the hope Jesus offers to those around us.
My current marching orders are to write a book. I tell you, it would be so easy to mop up the wait time with pining for my grandson. I’d waste hours upon hours of tailor-made writing time. I’ve learned to trust God for the time I’ll see my grandson and, in the meantime, I need to keep working, getting as much done as I can before I hop on that airplane.
Many of us have used this shelter-at-home time to do those things we have too long put off. As the time draws near to get back to normal, revisit your list. What haven’t you done yet? Don’t slack off because life is about to change. Keep doing the tasks God has given you to do.
Jesus told the parable of ten young women waiting for a bridal party (Matthew 25:1-13). The wait grew long. Five came prepared with extra oil for their lamps; the others didn’t. The five unprepared women went to buy the needed oil and missed the party. The quarantine time has given me a chance to think more of how I want to interact with my new grandson and the gifts I want to bring when I go to visit him. I’m challenged to go, planned and prepared, so I can make that visit as special as possible.
Churches are thinking through their reopening. We’re realizing we can’t assume we’ll merely go back to life as it was one Sunday. We’ve learned much in the last two months in this wilderness time and applying those lessons will take a certain amount of planning and preparation. This has been a good time to reevaluate how we’ve done church in the past and ask ourselves: what do we want to do differently and how can we make that happen? We can use these final weeks of waiting to be prepared to make church meetings more wonderful than ever for the returning worshipper.
As you look to your return to normal or your entry into a new normal, how can you prepare yourself for that moment? What aspects of daily life in the months of quarantine would you like to carry into the next phase? How can you prepare now to make that happen?
Make the most of the moment.
Time is short. Life can change so suddenly. The older I get, the more I don’t want to waste a single moment of this precious life doing meaningless activity. I can sit on my duff, focusing on what I think is ahead, or I can make the most of the time I have right now; it’s a choice I need to make.
Ephesians 5:15-17 says,
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.Ephesians 5:15-17 NIV
That’s good advice. Each morning, ask, “Lord, what is Your will for me today? Help me make the most of today.”
- You might not have a job, but what can you do TODAY?
- You might not be able to visit your grandchildren, but what can you do TODAY?
- You might not be able to gather with a large group for Sunday worship, but what can you do TODAY?
We don’t have much time before Jesus comes back to earth. None of us knows when He’ll call us or the person next to us to face eternity. So many people still don’t have a clue about the great gift of salvation free for the taking. If we know Christ, it’s our clear calling to stay faithful, be prepared, and use every opportunity to proclaim Christ as Lord.
What are you waiting for?