Patience in the Meantime

At Christmas time as a kid, I was crazy impatient. Who am I kidding? I’m still impatient. I’m the guy that buys a gift for my wife, wraps it and then wants her to open it right away because I know this year, it is going to be the best gift she has ever received. I want it to blow her mind, “Oh my gosh, Sammy! How did you know I wanted this? It’s so perfect!!!” all of this while running through the house leaping for joy. Or at least be as over joyed as Jonas who says, “I’ve always wanted one of these.”

Back to my story as a kid. I, like every kid, impatiently waited for Christmas to arrive. As I got older, I became more keenly aware of all of my mom’s hiding places for our gifts. I just had to make sure I was getting what was on my list. I, also, became really good at my “surprised” expressions on Christmas morning. (Mom, if you are reading this, I’m sorry. It only happened a few times.)

I just couldn’t wait to know what I was getting on Christmas morning. I only did this a few times though, because it really ruined the surprise and lure of Christmas. Part of the excitement of Christmas is the uncertainty of the gifts received. 

As adults, we tend forget this fact because we don’t give or get presents that are not on a list written by us or the one whom is giving us a gift. We don’t want to be the giver or receiver of the wrong gift. (My father-in-law actually liked to get socks because there was always a sale on them around Christmas. He always made me laugh. He was a practical gift giver. It was always something you can use.)

Many of us don’t do well with uncertainty in life. We want to have a controlled environment, a controlled life. Anytime there is a feeling of not knowing, we get uneasy and sometimes we do whatever we can to regain control. I believe it is one of the reasons it’s harder for adults to accept the message of Jesus. Ultimately, a life in Jesus is giving up control in order for a better way of life. Trusting God is giving up control.

The hardest time to trust God is in the meantime. What do I mean by this? Meantime, according to dictionary.com, is the intervening time. It’s the time between where we were and where we want to go. The meantime is the space between starting a new career and seeing the success we desire in that field. It’s the time between the diagnoses and the healing. It’s the time between surgery and recovery. The meantime is the years between a prayer and it’s answer. In the meantime.

The meantime is monotonous. It’s flat out boring. It’s the humdrum of life. The meantime is the daily routine that gets so repetitive that you long for something, anything different to come along. It’s the job that seems to be going nowhere fast.

In the meantime is when we ask ourselves, “Is this it? Is this what I am going to do for the rest of my life? Day after day, week after week, year after year? There’s got to be more than this God. I want something more.” And the meantime can last a day or an entire season of life. The meantime happens when we pray and it seems like God isn’t even listening. It’s the prayers that seem to hit the ceiling and reverberate back to us that there is no end in sight and we might as well give up. How do you I not get impatient for what God has for me next?

In his book, “A Shepherd’s Look at Psalm 23”, W. Phillip Keller (here’s a link to amazon, you need to read it.) describes in full detail what life as a shepherd is like and goes verse by verse helping the reader to understand what David is trying to convey in Psalm 23.

If you are not familiar with Psalm 23, it starts out, “ The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” Every time I get to the part that says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil. For you are with me.” I’ve always picture seasons of life being highs, on the mountaintop, or lows, the valley below the mountain. And we are on a lifelong journey of these highs and lows. But, Keller describes the valley in a more clear way that gives us hope in the meantime. 

The valley, according to Keller, was actually the location of a river that shepherds would guide their sheep along on the way to the plateau on the mountain that was sure to have greener pastures. It was a place of incredible foliage that would feed the sheep and sustain them on the journey up the mountain. The valley was always a place of great danger because wolves could stand on the edges of the valley and pick off any straggling sheep. This causes the shepherd to be more keenly aware of what is going on with his sheep. He knows them by name, how they are doing, if they are wounded or in need of anything. All the while, he is leading his sheep to a place of great reward.

The meantime is our valley on the way to where we are going. God does his best work in our lives in the meantime. The meantime is our opportunity to work on being even more close to Jesus, our Shepherd. The foliage that we need to sustain us is the Bible, God’s Word. It is our, “ever present help in times of trouble.” The enemy is prowling around like a wolf looking to see whom he can pick off.

Abraham was 75 years old when God promised him many descendants and 100 years old when his wife, Sarah, gave birth to Issac. In the meantime…

Moses tended sheep for 40 years before God told him to go set Israel free. In the meantime…

Jesus waited 30 years to start his ministry. In the meantime…

The meantime isn’t fun and exciting. Many times our prayers are for God to show us what’s in the box. What is the next great surprise? I’m learning that part of the excitement of life is the uncertainty of the gifts received.

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