I’ve grown up in a world of immediacy: I can communicate with my mom, living across the globe, with a text that takes half a second to deliver. I can look up the answer to a question just as soon as I’ve asked it, thanks to the encyclopedic internet in my pocket. I can clamber aboard a plane in the evening and wake up across the ocean. I can skip through commercials, I can put a podcast on double-speed – the list of things that can be sped-through piles high, reaching into almost every facet of life.
I don’t know if it’s the world I cut my teeth in or my natural inclination, but I recently realized that waiting actually makes me really uncomfortable. I cook with the stovetop dial twisted all the way up, I brush my teeth like I’m trying to beat my own record; slowness, pause, makes me uneasy. It feels wasteful, or like the consequence of not doing something right.
You’ll be entirely unsurprised to hear, then, that one of the most confronting things in the bible for me is the stories that show us that God does not function with the same urgency for immediacy as I do… In fact, it would seem He’s quite an unhurried man.
The Old Testament in particular is riddled with illustrations of His unrushed nature: Look at the winding path of Joseph’s story, from dream to kingship. Look at the length of years that stretched between Abraham’s promise being spoken and being born. Consider how long it must have taken Noah to construct that massive ark, fit for the whole zoo. I so often forget to consider that years swelled wide and long between the paragraphs I read in a minute or two.
Perhaps it makes me squirm the way it does because waiting is a lapse of control. In this world where I can dictate so many things, having to wait brings a certain measure of helplessness: You can’t force a fish to bite your hook. You can’t will the bread to rise any faster. You can’t entice Spring to come any sooner than it does. Waiting disarms you, because you’re left at the mercy of something else’s timing… Or, Someone Else’s timing.
God has been asking me to do quite a bit of waiting recently, and I’ve been surprised to discover how much faith it has required of me. We often think about “faith” as “the willingness to step out upon the waters,” to move into action in response to the voice of God. But I didn’t realize that sometimes the “action” He’s calling us to is inaction. The willingness to wait. Making the decision not to force a solution of your own, nor to cut and run from the situation altogether (because the tension of the unsolved can be scary and painful!) It is deciding, instead, that you trust God enough to leave yourself at the mercy of His timing.
A few years ago, a friend pointed out to me that God is not a microwave God. He doesn’t offer cheap speed, because His greatest concern is not rushing to the conclusion of something. Following the analogy, He could be more accurately likened to an oven: Not bothered by the process of warming up slowly, cooking something thoroughly through. Microwaves thaw things out, bring them into being edible, while ovens give room for different processes to work themselves out in your food. In ovens, juices seep and steep; things melt and crisp, and bread is gently, carefully prompted to stand a little taller. The time that is taken is allocated to the transformation of the ingredients, the thickening or bubbling or melding of somethings. The minutes are not just meaninglessly being ticked away, they’re being tapped for the change they make room for – vegetables softening, crusts stiffening. “An hour and a half” is not senselessly assigned to a casserole, it is the necessary prescription for the dish to turn out the way it should!
And to some extent, I believe that’s the way it is with God. He’s not frivolously playing cat-and-mouse games with us, delaying and elongating things because of carelessness or pettiness. He is committed to things, people, His kids, growing into the fullness that was intended for them, maturing – not just coming to “good enough.”
And perhaps that’s the mental shift that I need, in order to be able to rest while I wait. To see this pause, what looks and feels like a lull or a fruitless standstill, as the room necessary for beautiful processes to unfold, things developing into their greatest potential, into wholeness.
I’m still not that keen on waiting, but I’m thankful He’s an oven God. I’m thankful He’s invested in me, that He doesn’t want to leave me where I am, that He doesn’t choose to put the focus on “quick fixes” to problems. I’m thankful that processes don’t stress Him out or irritate Him, that He isn’t force-feeding me things that could/should be different in my life. I’m thankful that He is willing to wait for everything to cook all the way through. And if my Father, the God of the Universe, who is mindful of the presence and gravity of every very real need on this earth, isn’t fussed about things taking a little time…I want to be that way, too.”
Mayce is a young writer from The States who loves the adventure of living life alongside Jesus. She is currently living in Australia, where she works as a full-time volunteer with Youth With A Mission, Brisbane.