One Sunday I was waiting for the bus to get to church, when I overheard two men talking at the bus stop:
Man 1: “Which bus are we waiting for?”
Man 2: “The 33.”
Man 1: “33… That’s the number of lashes Jesus had.”
Me (in my head): ‘Yes, and that’s what waiting for this bus can feel like!’
Patience is a virtue, or so we’re told, but who among us is so virtuous? Britain used to take pride in its patient civility: deference to others (‘you first,’ ‘no you first’, ‘no you!’), pleases and thank yous, orderly bus queues… But these days nobody queues for the bus and it seems like nobody knows how to walk down the street without racing. Next time you step out of the house, try ambling slowly towards your destination. It’s extremely hard to do! People used to sit down and write letters thoughtfully and patiently by hand. Now we text, tweet and email dozens of messages every hour. There’s no doubt that speed can be beneficial—I’m glad I can reach my mother in the north of England within hours by train rather than days by horse and coach! But have we forgotten the benefits of waiting?
In Western culture, it is easy to want quick fixes and instant results (and the bus to arrive on time!), but Jesus knew how to wait. He didn’t rush around, even though his work was of the utmost importance. His was a natural rhythm of life. He had things to do but regularly took time away from them in order to be alone and pray. He also shunned the quickest means of getting around. Aside from his journeys by donkey to Jerusalem, and his journeys by boat across lakes, Jesus travelled on foot. He deliberately went slowly, and as many things as needed to happen happened along this slow way.
The Bible is full of references to waiting and the benefits of waiting. Far from raising our stress levels, and sapping our energy, we are told that ‘those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint’ (Isaiah 40:31, NRSV). If we’re to believe the prophet Isaiah, waiting for God and waiting for customer service to call you back are two very different things. A significant factor here, of course, lies in the Person being waited for, but it’s not the only factor. The difference is in the nature of the waiting itself. Waiting for God recharges the batteries, and breathes life into weary limbs. In other words, it’s good for both body and soul. I think we all know the impact of waiting for customer service, or the bus. Perhaps it’s time to try waiting on God while we wait on these other things as well…