"Slow": The New Cuss Word.
When I was a kid I thought cuss words, or as we called them, "curse words," were evidence of a dark, unrepentant soul. Only wayward people said such things, especially if you meant it! Those words were "bad words." And my little Christian soul would go on to prioritize a controlled tongue.
I have loosened up a bit over the years. Let me clarify, I am not talking about becoming numb to standards I have kept, but rather re-thinking the condition of the heart. It's fun to toss out a cuss word now and then for the shock of it all, not in an offensive way, and not in a certain company, but just a joke. As a lover of words, I am offended mostly by the lack of responsibility with words. Skilled use of vocabulary is something our culture needs. I had a teenage client years ago who used the f-word at least three times in every sentence. That is NOT a hyperbole, by the way."Let's cultivate your use of synonyms," I would say. "And if you can't come up with a more creative word choice, at least use it in a grammatically correct format!" Words aside, as an adult, I realize the heart's condition is the actual problem we have neglected to give attention to. Interestingly, it is so easy to identify a "bad word" but nearly impossible it is to identify the subtle, toxic diseases of the heart.
If there is one thing we are not doing well within our present age (we could all list out at least 15 things!!) it is patience. As I see it, our inability to wait well is far more destructive than any four-letter word. Harder to identify, but far more septic.
Our hatred of any and all delays is the target of every discussion of every marketing team all over the nation:
"How can we eliminate the wait time? How can we get it to them faster? How can we make it easier?"
No wonder we are so fragile!
Years of quick deliveries, easy ordering, self-check-outs, faster internet speed, and an immediate purchase with a single swipe have deformed us. The company that offers the faster, easier option gets the sale. Every. Single. Time. As a result, we are becoming less and less patient, more and more anxious, and increasingly restless.
If we could check our fortitude level what would it read? How about kids in their formative years? How would they score with endurance, perseverance, and long-suffering? What is our response to an order that got back-logged, a delivery that didn't come, a misplaced meal in the drive-thru line, or a text unanswered for 10 minutes? How about unresolved conflict, waiting to hear back from the university, or the results of the biopsy? Life is full of wait-time.
More importantly, what do we do about God? The promise in Genesis of a Savior wouldn't be fulfilled for decades. Even now, we await the return of Christ, which I thought would come before I had to face the SAT or the homesickness of college! As I have taught in my ROOTed series, "God is SLOW." He really is. And we don't do well with waiting...it's a set-up for an emotional rollercoaster.
Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God as a "mustard seed." This, the smallest seed, would grow into "the largest of garden plants and become a tree" (Matthew 13:32). His system is like the seed to tree process. Talk about delayed gratification. If you are like me, an unknown timeline is uncomfortable and leaves me feeling out of control.
Peter Scazzero invites us to consider the important topic of patience:
"Alan Kreider, a church historian, notes that one of the primary reasons the church grew in its first 300 years--through persecutions, oppression, and difficulties--was Christians were committed to patience and perseverance. Whether in their business dealings, sexual morality, valuing of women and children, care for the poor, or refusal to participate in violence. They created a comprehensive 'culture of patience.' In fact, he argues, the early church fathers wrote more about the Christian virtue of patience than about evangelism. He writes, 'God, in dealing with Israel across the centuries, was never in a hurry...' People looking on from the outside were attracted to the non-anxious, unforced lifestyle of the early church" (Day by Day 236).
I was struck into silence after reading this. It deserved a few moments of reflection. Would people describe the church as "non-anxious" today? I wonder if people would describe ME that way. These words oriented me. God is always at work, but he is moving slowly. When the waiting is long, I doubt. I go into fix-it mode. Waiting feels like regressing. The things that are not fixing, the work of my hands that doesn't seem to be growing, the people I love who are stuck, the areas in my own character I can't seem to overcome...it makes me want to say a bad word!! (😫)
This is when the truth gets practical. If things aren't moving along, it does not mean they are falling apart, failing, or hopeless.
In God's Kingdom, things move at a snail-pace. If he is cultivating a Kingdom-minded, Kingdom-focused person I imagine that takes lots of time and a handful of challenging experiences. Think about it: He is twisting our values into a shape that doesn't fit within the world we live in. Better said, he is reversing our very nature.
His development of the Kingdom in me requires me to endure the slow growth of a mustard seed.
What happens when we or others we love are forced to wait?
Our values are re-defined
We grow in the skill of "paying attention"
We become better listeners
We stop trying to control our lives
We notice beauty
We learn to appreciate ordinary things
We become prayerful
Our blood pressure goes down
Our curiosity grows
We value the company of others
We are less obsessed with accomplishments
We are less demanding
We are less entitled
Our attention spans are longer
Our schedules are less crammed
We are able to listen for the whisper of the Spirit
We are less edgy and irritable
We aren't undone by traffic or a long line at the store
We are approachable
We learn to put our phones away and be still
We aren't afraid of silence
We tap into our creativity
We learn to be ok with "boredom"
We practice the presence of God
It sounds a lot like maturity. Waiting leads to abundant growth.
Maybe that is why Jesus was ok with being interrupted on the way to heal Jarius's sick daughter (Mark 5).
Maybe that is why Jesus made Martha and Mary wait when they called on him to heal their brother (John 11).
Maybe that is why he was asleep on the cushion during the storm (Mark 4).
God does not fix things when and how we want. It's hard. The nature of our fast-paced world has resulted in us feeling abandoned by God when we have to wait. Norman Wirzba says it this way, "Could it be our anxiety and aggression, our desire to exert total control and exact maximum profit, follows from a basic inability to trust in God's beneficence and care" (Living the Sabbath)? The slowness of God is uncomfortable, but it's not a bad word. Instead of trying to fix it, maybe we become more attuned to what he is doing. The greater good.
Be reminded, that he is not trying to build you into someone who has figured it all out and as a result doesn't need him anymore. That was never his plan. Adam and Eve can tell you, that is the plan of someone else...
Let's get practical: Take a minute to consider how you have grown as a result of waiting? Go a step further and thank God for some specific qualities he has produced in you as a result of his slow response.
Ask him to give you endurance in whatever circumstance you are presently in. His goal is always to lead us into a dependency and attachment to him.