Sitting In Traffic
A few years ago, when I was assigned to the Fennville United Methodist Church, Reba and I had returned to Grand Rapids for an activity. We were only a few blocks from where we had lived prior to moving to Fennville. We had spent a large part of our lives living in large cities including Grand Rapids and Indianapolis. While sitting in stop-and-go traffic as we visited Grand Rapids, I made an assessment when looking around at all the cars and stated to Reba, “I can see more cars right now at this moment than I would ever see in Fennville in a weeks’ time.”
We were not moving, and you could tell by those around us people were becoming anxious, and I found myself also becoming frustrated with the lack of progress. We were stuck and going almost nowhere and I could see other people, and myself included, becoming frustrated with their hands on the steering wheel, moving just short amounts of space, and the minutes ticking away, and I believe as I remember there were even a few protests of noisy horns and that reminded me of when geese fly over and they honk to encourage each other to move faster and to keep going.
Sitting there I recognize that I still cannot deal well with becoming impatient. I have lived with this a good portion of my life, at times recognizing it and dealing with it appropriately and at other times I am not in complete control of my feelings and actions. For most of my professional career I have had a good amount of control of what and when I would do things. I could, for the most part, determine my own schedule. And when I had to live with someone else’s predetermined schedule for me, I fought it as best I could to try to make small and subtle changes so that I would think that no one was taking complete control over me.
One of the blessings that I have found being a pastor is that for the good of my own soul I need to feel what it is like to wait, to let the moments march past. And here I am today sitting in semi-retirement and not sitting in the middle of a freeway forced against my will to practice waiting. Now I may believe that in semi-retirement I have complete control but in reality, I do not. Every day I wait. I wait for certain TV shows, at times I wait for healing, I wait for the days to come when something important is to be done, and as a follower of Jesus Christ I wait for rescue and redemption. And like all of us I am waiting to know that we will end our earthly life and begin a new stage in our journey of everlasting life being with our Savior and Redeemer in the next stage of eternity.
Christians are people who wait. We live in the present, looking to the future as we look back at the past. Scripture tells us Christ has come and he will come again. We dwell in the meantime, we wait.
But in my daily life I have developed and continue to have those habits of impatience, at times speeding ahead, or trying to squeeze more into my cluttered day. I remember not too long ago when camping with my brother and sisters and their families, we would try to plan for two activities in a day and sometimes even work to squeeze three events in a day as we had gathered trying to maximize our week together.
Patience is the basic part of Christianity; the power to wait, to preserve, to hold out, to endure and to end, but not going beyond one’s own limitations. As God’s children who are loved by God, we must learn the hard practice of patience. Sitting in traffic, stuck, is one of the few times in my day where I embody the true state of my whole human existence on the way, already but not yet, living as a child of God in the in-between, waiting. We are impatient people. We want happiness now. Fulfillment and gratitude now. And time is just another commodity that we seek to maximize. When we are forced to sit in traffic or delay our movements it reminds us that we are not as productive as we would like to be. In her book “Receiving The Day,” Dorothy Bass describes how perceiving time is something that we own and manage, as blocks on our cellphone can drive us to the false belief that time is primarily a force to be tamed, used, and controlled. We delude ourselves into believing that if we can just get everything done, if we can only tie up all those loose ends, if we can even once get ahead of the crush, we will prove our worth and establish ourselves securely. Use of time is social, cultural, and economic to be sure. But it is also a spiritual problem, one that runs right to the core of who we are as human beings. We forget that we are not the masters of time. God is the head of time. And we come to believe that our worth must be proved by the way we spend the hours and minutes in good management of time.
The reality is that time is a stream into which we are swept. Time is a gift from God, a means of worship. I need the church to remind me of reality: time is not a commodity that I control, manage, or consume. Time is not mine it does not revolve around me. Time revolves around God, what he has done, what he is doing and what he will do.
We live in a waiting world, a world where time itself along with all creation groans, waiting for something to be born. So even in the ruralness of Oceana County with only one stop light, I practice waiting and hoping. My present reality is looking towards what is to come and I will be on the way.
Waiting, therefore is an act of faith in that it is oriented towards the future. Yet, our assurance of hope is rooted in the past, and in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and in His promise and resurrection. In this way waiting, like time itself, is Christ’s fulcrum of time.
Scripture tells us that when we, “Hope for what we do not see, we wait for it patiently” says Romans chapter eight verse twenty-five. We live each day as ordinary in the light of a future reality. Our best life is yet to come. Our best life will be when we see Jesus Christ and sit at His right-hand giving praise to God the Father and thanking the Holy Spirit for leading, guidance and giving us patience during our earthly time.