Tag Archives: Impatience

The Easy Way Out

If we have found favor in your eyes,” they said, “let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.”
Numbers 32:5 (NIV)

When I was a kid I was terrible at waiting for things. My sister, Jody, and I would always tell each other what we were getting for Christmas. I just had to know, even though it pretty much ruined Christmas morning as a time of pleasant surprises.

Driven by my appetites I was terribly impatient as a young person and typically wanted things now. Perhaps this developed from being the youngest sibling and watching others get to do things first while I had to wait until I was big enough or old enough. Perhaps it’s just part of my personality. Whatever the case, I can tell you that throughout my life journey when I was given a choice between the instant, easy gratification of a known quantity or the long, slow, patient wait for a promised, better pay-off down the line, I have typically always chosen the former. I’ve been very good at taking the easy-way out.

This trait has generally not served me well.

So it was with great interest that I read the story of the Hebrew tribes of Reuben, Gad in today’s chapter. If you’ve been following the larger story we know that many years before today’s chapter Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land God had promised them in the land of Canaan.

Back in those ancient days the land was largely made up of small city-states that controlled a small territory. Sometimes these towns would band together to form a larger, regional power in the area, but often each city-state would build a wall around their village and go it on their own.  In those days it was a dog-eat-dog world in which people groups were constantly invading and conquering one another. You were always at risk of a larger, stronger people showing up out of nowhere, conquering you, killing your entire population, and taking all of your possessions as plunder. If the Israelites wanted the Promised Land they would have to take it by conquest. It seems bloody and barbaric in our politically correct, modern Western world, but the ancient world of the near east was a bloody, barbaric place. It’s just the way it was.

A generation earlier, on their first visit to the Promised Land, Moses sent spies into the land to check things out. All but two of the spies were fearful and advised not starting a military campaign to take the land. Two spies, Joshua and Caleb, advised that the Israelites have faith in God and go for it. Because of the tribes’ lack of faith God said they’d continue to be a nomadic, wandering people for an entire generation before giving their children another chance.

As today’s chapter opens we’re setting up for the second chance. The Hebrew Tribes have approached the Jordan River and are once more looking out over the Promised Land. It’s right there for the taking, but it will require a hard campaign of conquest an no guarantee of victory. Now, the Reubenites and Gadites come to Moses and say, “We like this land we’re standing on. Perfect for our flocks. We’ll settle for this. Have fun with the conquest.

It’s just like me as a little kid. “I’ll take the thing I can have right now. This land I can see and we already possess and I don’t have to worry about conquering? It will be way more easy. I’ll take the easy way out, thank you.”

Moses immediately thinks, “It’s deja vu all over again.”

When confronted with what they were doing, the Reubenites and Gadites strike a pledge that they will settle the land they were on, but would send their men on the military campaign to support their fellow tribes in the conquest. Moses agrees, but I can feel an eery foreshadowing of problems to come…

  • Will the Reubenites and Gadites really be committed to supporting the conquest when their wives and children are back on the other side of the Jordan?
  • Will the Reubenites and Gadites leave their best fighters to protect their families and possessions and send their worst fighters on conquest? How’s that going to go over with the other tribes?
  • Once the Promise Land is secured will the Reubenites and Gadites be pissed off when they realize that they settled for less when they could have had much better land if they’d just been patient and held-out like the other tribes?

[Cue: red flags waving, alarm bells going off, and a loud buzzer]

All of the hard lessons this impatient person has learned along my life journey tells me this is not going to end well.

This morning I’m reminded of some of my own mistakes when I chose immediate, easy gratification over a much better, promised pay-off that required patience, fortitude and/or hard work. Some of these mistakes were silly and insignificant, but others were tragically life changing.

I’ve learned over time to recognize the pattern in myself. I’ve developed more patience. Having experienced some really good “promised land” rewards and delayed gratification has given me positive reinforcement on which to draw upon. I’m more likely to make wise choices today than I was in my younger years. Nevertheless, I’ve learned that some natural inclinations never go away. I just have to learn to recognize and manage the moment when I’m tempted to take the easy way out.

Some Things Take Time

 

English: Sample catalog card in the card catal...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years.
2 Samuel 5:4 (NIV)

When I was a boy I spent entire class periods of elementary school learning how to use the library. If I was interested in a subject or had a question that needed answering I would have to wait until the day of the week our class would visit the school library. I would look up the subject in a large set of drawers that housed small index cards arranged by the Dewey Decimal System. It gave me a number that corresponded to the numbers on the spines of books arranged on the shelf and from there I could find all the books on the subject that interested me. Then, all I had to do was scour the books on the shelf to find what I was looking for.

By the time I was a teenager there was a set of Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias on the book shelf in our home. My mom acquired the entire set of encyclopedias, volume by volume, over a period of time using S&H “Green Stamps” she got at the Hy-Vee grocery store. What a time saver. Now, if I wanted the answer to a question I could go to our basement family room and look it up in the encyclopedia.

When I was in my twenties I purchased my first computer. It was an IBM PS1 with a 3.5 inch “floppy” disc drive and no internal hard drive. I eventually purchased a 300 megabyte hard drive for just over $300 and installed it myself. With that computer I got on the internet for the first time through a phone line that dialed-up the connection, but anyone trying to call me at home would get an intermittent tone called a “busy signal” telling them that I was using the phone line at the moment.

By the time I was thirty, I was able to access almost any information I wanted on the internet from home. No going to the library. No looking it up in a book. Simply dial-in to the internet (which by then I could do AND still use the home phone line AT THE SAME TIME! Genius!) and type in what you’re looking for.

On the way to the lake this past Wednesday night Wendy and I saw a gorgeous rainbow. “Why are rainbows arched?” we mused. Wendy simply picked up her phone, which is connected to the internet at all times, and asked the question. Everything you could possibly want to know about the subject was available to us instantly on our cell phone as we sat in our car speeding down Highway 63 in rural Missouri.

Face it. We are becoming an increasingly impatient people. I think we have enjoyed the blessings of rapidly advancing and evolving technology which deliver results and instant gratification, but scarcely have we realized the impact that it’s having on us.

David was anointed king as a boy. Chapter-by-chapter we’ve followed his journey across some twenty years from being a young hero over Goliath, to developing into a warrior, to spending years as an outlaw on the run, to becoming a mercenary for hire against his own people, to becoming the leader of his tribe. He didn’t realize the fruition of his anointing until he was 30.

Some things take time, and we are being increasingly conditioned to believe that everything should happen for us immediately and upon demand. I know I’m at risk for sounding like a stodgy old man grieving the good old days, but I’m really not. I enjoy the blessings of technology as much as everyone else. At the same time, I wonder what it is doing to me, how it is changing me, and when I should be concerned. One of the fruits of God’s Spirit is patience. David had to learn it in his long trek to the throne. I have had to learn it (often the hard way) in relationships and life and art and business.

Today, I’m reminding myself to be patient. Some things take time in order to work out for the best, and I want God’s best for me, no matter how long it takes.

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Letting Go of My Personal Timetable

Agenda
Agenda (Photo credit: Jim Ceballos)

“The Lord has done what he predicted through me.” 1 Samuel 28:17 (NIV)

When I was a young man, I couldn’t wait to grow up. There is a natural progression of time and life, but there was something in me that wanted desperately to push everything forward. My restless, extroverted nature was always pushing the clock. I wanted to got. I wanted to move. I wanted to push things forward. Perhaps this was the result of being the youngest or perhaps there was a spiritual restlessness in me. In any event, I was always pushing the timeline to get to adulthood as quickly as possible. I graduated from high school early. I went to college early. I got married early, and I had chidren early.

Looking back on my life journey (from just over the hill), I can see the natural consequences and difficult life lessons that resulted in me trying to constantly push time and circumstances to acheive my own personal will and desires. As I’ve progressed in my journey I’ve come to a deep appreciation of God’s divine timing. I have increasingly learned the contentment required to wait for to be at peace in the moment and to wait for God to move.

In the story of David and Saul we see another stark contrast between the two men in this regard. David was anointed king as a child, but has patiently refused to push God’s hand by taking Saul’s life and stepping up the timeline to his ascension as monarch. I’m sure it couldn’t have been easy, especially since it resulted in years of being an outlaw and living in exile. Saul, however, was always pushing his own will. It was what got him into hot water in the first place and in today’s chapter we see that he has still not learned the lesson. His decision to consult a medium and conjure up Samuel’s spirit is just another illustration of Saul’s refusal to be content with God’s will and timing.

Today, I’m taking stock of the circumstances of my life in which I feel impatience. There are a number of them. Naming them one by one, I am choosing to let go of my will and timing. Instead, I am handing them over once more to God and entrusting them to His perfect will and divine schedule.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 6

from oter via Flickr

I am sick at heart.
    How long, O Lord, until you restore me?
Psalm 6:3 (NLT) 

Any one who has road tripped as a child or with a child knows the agony of impatience. My brain can easily recall the whiny, high pitched and agonized voice: “Daaaaaaaaddy!? How loooong ’til we get theeeeeere?”

This road trip called life is filled with long stretches of waiting:

How long until I’m old enough?
How long until I get married?
How long until I’m better?
How long until I’m pregnant?
How long until this is over?
How long until I’m over this?
How long until you show me the way?
How long do I have to endure this?
How long until I find a job?
How long until things are reconciled between us?
How long until this house sells?
How long will I feel this way?
How long until we’re out from under this crushing debt?
How long until the kids are out of this phase?
How long until the Cubs win the World Series? (Sorry. I couldn’t resist. It’s been a long season already.)

The songwriters of the Psalms commonly use the repeated phrase “How long, O Lord, How long?” in their lyrics. As we journey through each song, you’ll notice it cropping up again and again. Waiting, persevering, and enduring are common and critical to our human experience and to our spiritual maturity. I love that King David and the other lyricists were not afraid to wrestle with and express some of the most powerful emotions we face on our own journeys.

Today, I’m looking back at long stretches of my journey through which I had to press on and patiently (or impatiently) endure. I’m considering the abundant ways those agonizing waits helped me to grow and mature – how they prepared me for the rest of my journey.

Chapter-a-Day James 5

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Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. James 5:7 (NLT)

As I read this verse from today’s chapter I thought about the season of Advent. Our church is focusing on the Christian calendar this year, so the messages leading up to Christmas have been about Advent, which is a latin word meaning “coming” or “revealing.” It’s the season of expectation prior to Christmas as we await the coming of the birth of Jesus.

As I read this verse in today’s chapter I thought about the warm autumn rain that’s been falling for the past day here in Iowa. The fields are brown and death-like, and yet there is already anticipation of next year’s crop. The moisture is a welcome sight for farmers who are waiting and already thinking and planning for planting next Spring.

As I read this verse in today’s chapter I thought about my dinner conversation last night with Wendy. With our Vikings at a miserable 2-11, we are already talking about baseball and all of the changes for our beloved Cubs this off season. Christmas is almost here, then  a sojourn through January. February means the beginning of Spring Training and suddenly it doesn’t seem that far away.

Through the journey I’ve learned that I can be an impatient person. I don’t like waiting. God’s timing is so rarely my timing. More often than not I find myself waiting and expecting. It is woven into the fabric of the journey. We stand on the path, but our eyes stare ahead to the horizon.

God, help me to find the balance between contentment and expectation. Help me to balance my desire to get to my destination with the patience to appreciate the place that I find myself at the moment and accept all that the journey is creating within me.

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 24

O'hare nightmares.

Then Moses climbed the mountain. The Cloud covered the mountain. The Glory of God settled over Mount Sinai. The Cloud covered it for six days. On the seventh day he called out of the Cloud to Moses. Exodus 24:15-16 (MSG)

Wendy and I made our way back from the east coast yesterday. We'd been there for four days on business and we were tired. We'd already extended our stay by a day. United gouged us on price for changing our itinerary.  Then, it was just one of those days. I spilled scalding hot coffee on myself. Wendy left her iPod on the plane. We had to scurry around the bowels of O'Hare airport to file a lost article report. The more tired we felt, the more impatient we got.

Upon reflection, it is still a wonder that we could wake up looking over the Atlantic ocean and walk through our back door, fourteen hundred miiles away, in a matter of a few hours. How discontent, how impatient we've become.

I found it interesting that for all the pomp and fireworks on the mountain, God did not call out to Moses for seven days, and Moses was up there on the mountain for forty days and nights. I can't imagine how impatient people got waiting for him to come down.

Today, I'm reminded that God exists and operates beyond linear human timelines. His purposes are far greater than my modern day impatience, lack of contentment, and petty demands. God, help me let go of my self-centered impatience, and find rest in your perfect will.

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