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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It's not about what you wait for, but who you are waiting with

I don't think anyone on earth naturally enjoys waiting for something they want.

From birth, we want everything, NOW. We cried for milk NOW. We wanted our diapers changed NOW. And as we grew older, we wanted the latest toy NOW, the latest video game NOW, and for all the nerds out there, the most recent Harry Potter book NOW. We evolved with our interests as we grew older to want the newest iPhone, cars, clothing, purses, technology, jobs, girlfriend/boyfriends, or even work out routine. If a new restaurant came out, we wanted to go there NOW. Nothing seems to be as good as getting something NOW. In fact, everything in the service industry is oriented to satisfy this sense of NOW. The only place we don't want to go to now is to visit the dentist.

Based on our social standing and the wealth we have, things do change a little. The wealthiest and the most famous people rarely have to wait for anything as the world seems to rearrange itself to fit their needs. They get priority seating, they get first choice, they also get the first look previews. Special events are created just for them so that they can have a first glance at a new art exhibit or take a look at the newest line of super cars. As the service and luxury industry continues to thrive, there will always be a gap between the prioritization of the rich and the poor. But at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter. All this will mean nothing and well, as for me, I have found that waiting is often times more fruitful than not, whether I enjoy it or detest it at the moment. Something about waiting makes the human experience that much sweeter.

There is a great equalizer though that serves as a good test for people. The thing about waiting is that it demonstrates one's sense of entitlement and their level of patience. Most people who hate waiting for anything will talk about how time is money (which is certainly true) and how they don't have time to wait like the rest of us. They get angry when things take a minute too long or if it doesn't show up when expected. They will literally go out of their way to bring a little wrath into someones life due to their "incompetence" in timeliness. Waiting also shows how much of a control freak they are and in what ways they value their time. People who have little patience simply don't have a grip on the common reality of the world, which is best exemplified by the law of the harvest. If you plant a seed, it will take time to grow, and you will need to wait for it to grow. Something about farming analogies always seem to make sense because we all have had experiences eating vegetables and fruits. However, for those of us who live in the city, it isn't farming that demonstrates our patience (and foresight and discipline), but our ability to wait at the DMV. The DMV isn't the only gauge, but it certainly is a good one. Everyone can probably agree that a great equalizer in society is the DMV. No matter who you are (except maybe politicians), you have to grab a number, wait in line, and often wait a long time before you are called (especially in LA). DMV days are good tests for me since I have to plan my entire day around it. There are now options to schedule an appointment, but even with an appointment, I am usually there for an hour. I've never been in and out of any DMV like it was a drive through.

The thing about waiting at a DMV is that you begin to look down on everyone else for making you wait and hate the people on the other side of the counter simply because they are there. We begin to think that only incompetent people work at the DMV and that if they weren't so lazy the line would move faster. We blame the immigrants from Central America or Asia for not being able to read the forms correctly and wasting more time. Then we get scared when the tatted up black guy with an angry look on his face sits next to us. And of course, we can't forget about the country bumpkin white family with 7 kids crying right behind us because they didn't fill out the registration. In the corner, you always see some guy or gal in a power suit and tie trying to make the most of the situation while talking on his iPhone and clicking away on his Blackberry clearly frustrated because he is too good to be in the same room as everyone else.

However, if you realize that everyone is in the same boat and that every one's time is just as valuable as yours and everyone has some place better to be, then you begin to see them differently. You see the struggle the immigrants are having and you ask them if they need any help since you speak a little Spanish and are ethnically from the same Asian decent as others. You see that the hardened tattoo guy is actually a really nice guy once you actually talk to him. The family with the kids are genuinely nice and just need a breather for one second so you play with the kids and alleviate them from having to pay attention to every single kid and stress out about losing one of them in the chaos. The guy/gal in the power suit is stressing out about a deal that might put his job on the line. Everyone at the DMV seems to be falling apart. What you realize at this point is that it makes the most sense for you to wait more. Every one's needs all of a sudden become more pressing then your own and you start to empathize with that. Waiting becomes an act of service and you humble yourself through the wait and enjoy the company of those waiting with you. You have a few conversations, get to know some interesting people whom you would've never interacted with on any other occasion, and if things go really well, minister to them. Somehow, waiting stopped becoming a dread and turned into a series of moments where you can truly see that you aren't the center of the universe.

The thing about waiting isn't necessarily about what you are waiting for. We all have to wait for stuff. Waiting is just a part of life, so we have to accept the fact that we will spend a good amount of time just waiting in life. But there is something greater in the waiting which we need to grasp.

I remember going to 21 Choices in Old Town Pasadena for some Cold Stone like mixed in Frozen Yogurt with a friend of mine several years ago. She's a child therapist so she would always point out behavioral tendencies in children and I would find it extremely amusing. During the summers, the lines to get 21 Choices were about 20-30 minutes long. As we waited in line, we had good conversation and on top of that started engaging with people in line, which is odd for people in larger cities because everyone is always looking for more personal space. We met a group of three people of which two were married together and their daughter. We conversed the entire time we were in line and even made plans to meet again. We met several times after that event and became good friends until they moved away to New York for work. But I find that being in situations where you are forced to wait can present great opportunities to meet people if you are just open to it. The benefits of getting to know new people certainly outweighed the cons of having to wait for ice cream.

Its not about what you are waiting for, but often times, who you are waiting with.

I am usually guilty of just trying to get to the destination that I don't enjoy the process of actually getting there. However, the great lessons of life seem to be placed within the journey. We admire heroes for enduring through their tumultuous processes to get somewhere.

As I've set apart two months to simply get to know God, the thing I've been struggling with is what is after these two months. What direction do I go? At times when I pray I focus so much on where I am headed that I forget that I am headed there with God and ignore God all together. I don't enjoy the time I get to spend with the great King of Glory and the protector of my soul. I forget that my Father in Heaven has opened up a channel for me through his great Son Jesus Christ to allow me to fellowship with Him, to enjoy Him. When I set my pace to slow down, to not be so anxious, and to just look to God, I find that the transformations take place. Peace settles in and calm runs through my veins. My perspective turns from my immediate needs to the eternal life I will live. Everything sort of works together to help me see the joy of waiting with God.

The thing is, if we are too focused on what we have to do and where we are headed, we tend to miss the most important moments of life. I have been to over 40 weddings now and a common thing I hear from the bride and groom afterwards is that they wish it wasn't so much a production. Instead, they wish that they could've enjoyed the wedding with their guests instead of running around trying to fill a time schedule. Yes, a large part of weddings is the production of it all, but I can't help but hear the message that the reason the production was even worth it was because of the people who were there to participate with them in the ceremony.

If no one likes the dentist, then all of a sudden, I find myself having the best time of my life in the waiting room because I know that God is with me.

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