Hurry Up and Wait

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, my daughter and I went on a quick errand to the craft store. As we walked in, my daughter grabbed my hand and pulled me back.

“We can’t go in there,” she said.

“Why?” I asked, looking around for danger, “What’s wrong?”

“That!” she proclaimed, pointing to the display window. “Look at all that Christmas stuff. It’s not Thanksgiving yet! Santa shouldn’t be there. We can’t go in.”

I laughed, because clearly she’d heard my ranting about rampant consumerism pushing Christmas a full month early.  “I’m know it’s ridiculous,” I said finally, “I don’t like it, but we need to get the candles for worship on Sunday. We have to go in.”

She gazed up at me, worried. “You’re going to be okay, then?” she asked, before offering a solution: “Should we hide our eyes from the Santas?”

“Good idea,” I said. “Let’s just not look at it.”

I’m very proud to be passing down my sincere dislike for holidays out of season to the next generation. It was a pet peeve my grandmother and I shared. She used to send me cards out of season to tease me: A Halloween card for my September birthday, a Thanksgiving card for Halloween, a Christmas card for Thanksgiving, and a Valentine’s card for Christmas. If she were still living, I would’ve called her on October 29 when my daughter and I went to Target looking for items for a kindergarten “boo bag” and found the Halloween section already turned over for Christmas. Grandma and I would’ve had a good laugh and shaken our heads at the world’s impatience. Instead, my daughter and I joined about 30 other shoppers, taking out our cultural rage on employees dressed in red shirts.

There’s a beautiful line in the Indigo Girls’ song “Everything In Its Own Time” which says: “A lesson learned, a loving God, and things in their own time. In nothing more do I trust.” (Listen here). If I were to have a life’s motto, this would be it. I trust solely in two truths: 1. A loving God. 2. Things in their own time.

In my 6 years of experience as a mom, 15 years as a pastor, and 41 years as a person, I can say with certainty that nothing good ever comes from rushing hastily into something. If you rush through life, constantly wanting the next thing, you’ll miss the life God is blessing you with today.

It’s precisely why I’m a Presbyterian (besides being predestined, of course). We joke in the Presbyterian church (USA) that it takes us 20 years longer to get anything done. It might be true (and frustrating). Yet, I believe in the Presbyterian process because anything worth doing is worth taking the time to do it right. Change takes time. Consensus takes time. Discernment takes time. Listening together for the Holy Spirit takes time. God answers prayers on God’s timeline, not ours. So we must slow down and time to listen for God’s leading. 

It’s precisely why I’m a baseball fan. I love the slowness of the game. The precision it takes to throw a small ball into an invisible strike zone. The exactness of strength and stature to hit the ball to an open place. A player with a very good batting average, bats about .300. That means 70% of the time, they miss. In the MLB, Teams with the best record only win slightly more games than they lose. I believe in the long game. The slow steady march of pitch after pitch, game after game, day after day, year after year. Some we lose. Sometimes we win. All life is found in between.

It’s precisely why I am a wait for it kind of parent. I know from experience that pushing a precocious strong-willed child to do something new will do nothing but frustrate parents and prolong the darn thing anyway. My son took his first 2 steps at 11 months but not a single more until 13 months. Why? Because he did it when he was ready. He still had a pacifier at 2+. He gave it up when he chewed thru it, threw it away and said buh bye. Why? Because that’s when he was ready. Now at 3, he’s not potty trained (judge all you want). He goes sometimes at daycare, but never at home. Why? Well, his very astute answer is: “because it’s a mystery.” That’s a mystery I’m willing to wait out, because he’s not yet ready, but I’ll be ready when he is.

There’s no hurry. Be the turtle when the rest of the world is the hare. Because slow and steady wins the race. As I live and work and parent and operate in today’s world, I often think about the words Brooks Hatlen writes in The Shawshank Redemption after getting out of prison: “The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.”

The world may have gotten itself in a big damn hurry, but that doesn’t mean we have to.

In fact, God refuses to be hurried. As scripture shows us time and again, God is in no hurry. God works it all out slowly and surely. The Gospels make sure we know that first and foremost.  This Advent, I’m again struck by the ways the 4 Gospel writers begin their texts. Matthew begins with a long, long, long list of names that stretches through thousands of years, reminding us that God took several millennia to bring about salvation in Jesus Christ. Luke begins with the story of an older couple who have been waiting a lifetime for a child. John begins with creation itself, noting how long the world has waited for the Word to become flesh and dwell among us. (To be fair, Mark’s Gospel gets itself in a big damn “immediately” hurry,  but someone’s gotta be different, I guess.)

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus takes naps, goes off alone, and prays until he is ready to do the next thing. Because nothing happens until God is ready for it to happen.

God will come when God is ready.

Until then: it is okay to wait. It is okay to not rush in. It is okay to think it through. It’s okay to avert your eyes at the craft store Santas. It is okay to say: I don’t know about that, let me research it. It’s okay to say, let me pray on that. It’s okay to sit and not do a single thing. It’s okay to wait until you are ready.

This morning, my son stood at our coffee table dressed in his Donald Duck Halloween costume. He set up our play nativity set, placing Pete the Cat, Mickey Mouse, Spider-Man and Cinderella beside the wisemen and shepherds to meet baby Jesus. At one point, He held baby Jesus in his hands and asked: “Mommy, is Jesus born every day?”

Yes, dear child, Jesus IS born anew every day in us. Why hurry? Rest in Jesus right here and now.

Jesus among the people

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