Waiting patiently for God


The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge - Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville



There have been various estimates on how many years of our lives are spent waiting in line. One study showed the average amount of time the ordinary person spends waiting in line is five years! (E. Hays) In Russellville that seems like a long time, but if you were to commute to Nashville from almost any direction the amount of waiting time might seem to be more like ten to fifteen years. Road construction, lunch and ticket lines, airport security screening, and numerous other lines slow us down.

Airports can be particularly frustrating. After you discover that your flight has been cancelled, everyone rushes to the nearest agent to find any flight available even on another airline. Bishop White of Kentucky tells a story of such a situation where a woman interrupted the line to get a new flight and felt that she was so important that the attendant should honor her request first because she was such an important person. She was told repeatedly, however, to take her place in line. But she insisted that she should be taken care of first. She said again and again, “Do you know who I am?” as if to say, “Don’t you see how important I am?” This went on for awhile, but eventually an announcement was overheard in the waiting area. “There is a lady here at gate 6 who doesn’t know who she is. If anyone can identify her, kindly come and fetch her.”

Sometimes life seems like a waiting game. We live busy lives and want to accomplish our tasks as quickly as possible. But that isn’t always possible. And if you share your frustration with a friend you’re likely to hear, “Be patient, dear. Patience is a virtue.” At that point you’re more likely to form a fist rather than creating a smile.

Waiting and patience affect us all. Patience itself can be considered power, as Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, because “patience is not an absence of action; rather it is timing. It waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.”

I read a brilliant sermon recently by a graduating senior at the General Theological Seminary in New York. Her name is Hershey Andrael Mallete. Her text was the great commission from Matthew’s Gospel to “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Her more immediate text was, “God is not a microwave.” What she meant by that is that “God seldom does anything instantaneously, rapidly or straightaway!” “God didn’t make the world in an instant. God didn’t flood the earth, or recede the flood water the day after it rained. God didn’t make Abraham a nation in prompt fashion. God is not a microwave.” She went on for quite a time naming numerous biblical stories where God’s action took time; and described life events that require us to wait and to be patient just as God is patient.

In dealing with our own issues we may strive to wait patiently for God’s healing presence. Instead of losing faith because God doesn’t seem to act immediately, we find that the answer to our prayer may come in a different manner as a gift of grace. The solution to a problem may feel like it is being postponed, but you become aware of God’s loving presence surrounding your life, feeding you gently day by day, mending your sorrow, and healing you in ways you hadn’t anticipated.

Moliere (1622-73), the French actor and playwright, wrote: “Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.” Sometimes that’s the way we are meant to grow too. Seeing our lives in God’s time takes time to assimilate. But God’s time is not just about what can be accomplished quickly. God’s time is eternity.

The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge

Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

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