Few of us have the means (or celebrity status) to live in a state of perpetual instant gratification. For we “normal folk,” wanting is inextricably linked to waiting. The length of the wait may vary, but there are very few things we want that we don’t also have to wait for. Wanting means waiting. We wait because we want. Whether it’s the time it takes for the cupcakes to cool so I can ice (and then eat) them, the time it takes for the elevator I missed to come back to my floor, the time I spend waiting for my delayed flight to take off so I can finally start this vacation, or the time it takes to see a deep-seeded dream realized, I must wait for what I want.
By nature, I am not a patient person. I can’t even walk slowly when I don’t want to go where I’m going. Far too often in my life I have allowed my impatience to compel me. Thankfully I am learning that whatever God wants me to have is worth the wait. And more than that, the wait is worth something. The process of blindly trusting — the act of having peace and reassurance without knowing or seeing when or from where my hopes or dreams will come — has value. In fact, sometimes the waiting is worth more than whatever I’m waiting for. So much can be learned in the silence and darkness that resides between a desire and its realization. For in my seasons of anticipation, I have seen increases in the worth and weight of my faith. When I have learned contentment in the face of sustained disappointment, I have seen the currency of my trust in God appreciate.
Few things of great value are fleeting opportunities; more often than not (at least in my life) they are the culmination of a season of waiting and working, strengthening and growing, observing and learning. God has never allowed His vision for me to race beyond my reach. He is patient and kind, and so He waits. He nurtures. He loves. And (ever calling me by my name) He waits.
For most things of great value, the longer they are allowed to develop and ripen on their metaphorical tree, the sweeter the pleasure they produce when tasted. When my desire to have this or that “right now” causes me to reach for it before it has attained its perfect peak, I often end up with a lesser version of what I could have had in time. I don’t want life’s sour strawberries or green bananas, and so I am finding it necessary to daily remind myself: Be patient. Just wait.
Patient anticipation — that is what I am aiming for. To be able to want something while remaining satisfied within the wait — that is my hope.
At its core, my impatience is primarily a lack of faith. I become impatient when I think that if I don’t have what I want right now, I’ll never have it. On some level, I am not trusting God, or I am not trusting God’s timing.
But God’s timing is flawless. I may sometimes be late or hasty, but God has perfect timing. His timing is so perfect that even when I lag behind or rush ahead of His will, the sheer limitlessness of His precision and accuracy absorbs my rhythms and makes them good. That is the true miracle of God’s timing, not just that He makes sure to bless me when I’m ready, but that He makes sure I’m ready for when He blesses me.
Patience means fully comprehending that God is in control…of everything. When I grow impatient, I tend to try and coopt control. This means I have to compartmentalize God, because I can’t both acknowledge His love, omniscience, and omnipotence and yet also question whether He cares about, is paying attention to, or is able to affect the contents of my life.
God often reveals His attention to the details through coincidences. In the simplest gesture or idea, I see that God has put everything in motion. Because when I begin to dissect any coincidence or bit of serendipity, I find such levels of interdependent intricacy, that I can’t label it all accidental.
Let’s look at one example I love to trace backwards, forwards, and around: How I met my husband. I met my husband at one of my church’s small groups. (A group we would later become co-leaders of.) Now, I could have attended a number of different small groups offered by my church, but I went to that one. I chose it because it was convenient to get to from my job. I got that job in large part because of where I went to grade school. I went to the school I did in large part because of my mother’s job. Her first boss encouraged her to enroll me in a certain preschool. Someone at that preschool took an interest in my family and encouraged my parents to consider sending me to a private prep school — a school my parents should not have been able to afford, and a world of educational possibilities that (especially as immigrants) they probably wouldn’t have come across on their own. But come across it they did, and thanks to some sacrifices on their part and a robust series of events that neatly fall under the header “God’s Part,” they were able to afford giving me (and my two siblings) Park Avenue educations with Crown Heights finances.
Let’s fast forward. Because of the private school I attended, I had a very receptive network of people to have informational interviews with when I was looking for a job in publishing. And during one of those informational interviews, I found out about (and was recommended for) the job that led me to choose the small group where I met my husband.
My husband and I only became friendly acquaintances in small group. Our friendship really developed leading up to and during a group trip to Puerto Rico, a trip I didn’t think was really going to happen until people started sending me their flight itineraries. A trip I probably wouldn’t have been invited to join if I didn’t attend and make friends at that small group. And a small group I wouldn’t have been a part of if I’d attended another church.
I found my church in New York through the pastor of the church I attended during my college and post-college years in Massachusetts. He recommended three churches to me, but this was the one I visited first. And why was I looking for a church in New York, even though I’d grown up there and gone to church there? Because the church I’d grown up going to wasn’t very diverse, didn’t provide me with many peers, and was too emotionally draining to attend once my mother died. I wanted to find a church in New York that was akin to the church I’d attended (and loved) in Massachusetts. I found the church I attended in Massachusetts because a college friend of mine told me about it. And I only met that friend because we played volleyball together. And we only played volleyball together because we both chose to attend the same college. And I primarily chose that college because the other ones I visited smelled like beer and I didn’t like my chances of making their volleyball teams.
I wouldn’t have cared about playing volleyball in college if I hadn’t fallen in love with the game in high school. And if not for a very persistent physical education teacher (who begged me to play for at least two years), I would never have tried out for my high school volleyball team and discovered how much I loved the sport. And if I hadn’t fallen in love with volleyball, I never would have devoted so much time to it, gotten better, tried out for my college team, made it, and then become friends with the girl who introduced me to the Massachusetts church that led me to the New York church that had the small group where I met my husband.
That’s an over simplification, I know, but even so, I think it suggests how many small and big things had to fall into place in just the right way and at just the right time for me to meet, befriend, fall in love with, and marry my husband. And that’s not even the director’s cut; the unabridged version includes deleted scenes like how my husband ended up at that church and in that small group as well as such bonus features as the timing, bloopers, and influence of ex boyfriends. Both directly and indirectly, old boyfriends made it more likely that I’d meet and befriend the man who became my husband. Even the death of my mother, which moved me to return to New York, played a part. And when I see such levels of interwoven dependence, near misses, and precision, it is hard for me to call it coincidence. I have to consider that someone (I call Him God) has a loving and omnipotent hand in it all.
When there’s something I want, be it a thing, a trip, a job, or a state of being, it’s helpful for me to reflect on the past. When I consider how some of the greatest blessings in my life have developed (over days, months, years, and even decades), it makes it easier for me to have a little more patience — a little more. Looking at the past puts the present in perspective. It helps me to recognize that whatever I hope or dream for in the future can only come to me through a succession of presents. This turns “the now” or my current state not into an obstacle to endure before I get what I want, but the very vehicle that will drive me forward. And if I’m really paying attention, I’ll recognize the value in my waiting — the lessons learned, the feelings explored, the growth attained in the seasons of “not yet.”
Whenever I’ve gotten something I wanted or realized a dream, I’ve felt great joy. But that joy was only as great and sweet as it was because of the waiting before it. And this is how I’m learning to be patient, by discovering and rediscovering the gifts that can only be savored or unwrapped while waiting.
I am fortunate. I have food, clothing, shelter, and love. So whatever else I want or hope for, whenever I feel the tug of impatience, I can say: Don’t strive, just go about your work. Have some faith and patience. Just wait. It will come. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay. I have everything I need and much of what I want. Anything more I receive is a bonus.
A version of this piece originally appeared on Write Away.