“Monday… I could wait til Tuesday…. if I make up my mind, Wednesday would be fine… Thursday’s on my mind…Friday, give me time… Saturday, wait… But Sunday be too late.” – Sting, “Seven Days”
That Christmas tree is still mocking me.
Like the smudged and fading brillance of a shiny new penny, the bright hopes of a new year quickly are dragged into the reality of work and waiting. Not that I’m ungrateful for the return to work- I nearly skipped out of the house today on my way to the office early this morning, knowing I would beat most of my co-workers there, and get some much needed focused time in my office to complete some overdue work. But other issues seem to grow big fast when you once had a sudden burst of optimism, as if to say, “You won’t get rid of us that easy, partner. Resolutions, Smesolutions!- We’re here to stay.” So yeah, the insurance check we needed to get cashed right away? More calls necessary to get the right endorsement from the banks. The kids’ curriculum? Has to wait a week or so while I build up funds and research more on which math and history texts will work best to catch the kids up this semester. Our plans for continuing our redecorating and purging the house of clutter? Miki’s now the beneficiary of the colds Christopher and I finished with over the holiday break, and I’m stuck staring at this tree two weeks after Christmas, not even sure where the ornaments on the tree should go – the plastic box or the cardboard?
Yes, this time of fasting should be the ultimate builder of patience. But even in fasting from food and fun activities, I’m keenly aware of time passing. I catch myself counting down the days til I can eat fast food again, send Twitter updates to my homeschool chums and dad pals, and be free to swig Dunkin Donuts coffee with no cream and extra sugar. Not the most spiritual approach, I know. Yet Jesus wasn’t in the wilderness for show – he had to be tempted. With me, the temptation is to short circuit the mental and spiritual discipline I am building and simply turn this experience into a waiting game – one that simply proves that I can look forward, instead of looking inward.
There’s the catch. Looking inward, to see why I want what I want. Is it for comfort’s sake that I’m praying for issues to be concluded? Simply for my desire to be free of the concerns, so my life will be easier? Or do I desire certain things from God, and from myself, so that I can be a better worker, a better husband, a better servant, a better father? Motive is everything. If I can deny the desire for desire’s sake, and turn my attention to my Father’s desire, well, now waiting becomes the end, not the means. It’s within the wait that the great changes take place that help us appreciate how God works with and in us. And I’m trying to make sure I don’t miss those important moments in the rush to get to what I’m getting to.
So I will try to channel the frustration into the chance to discover what I’m really looking forward to. The same discipline I’m practicing in self-denial must be worked out in my devotion to God, devotion to my wife, devotion to my kids, on a daily basis. If I don’t develop that, well, this whole exercise becomes, well, more like Waiting for Godot than waiting for God. In the play, Godot never arrives. When waiting for God, he’s already there. Our job is to use the meantime to learn to recognize Him.
And that, as they say, is time well spent.
Looking unto the hills,