How Long Do I Wait? The Only Safe Rule

How long to wait person with clock

How long do you wait? Not, how long do you wait in the drive-thru or the phone queue before you opt out?

I mean, how long until you remind or text the “❓“ or ask again? Do you anguish over that?

Sometimes I do.

How Long Do I Wait?

Lots of times I jump the gun. Ask my husband. Too many times to count I remind him of what he knows and, in a little way, betray the trust. And ask my sister-in-laws about the cherry Butter-braids I bought and the Horny Toad dress I lent—times my reminders hurt, not helped, the cause.

Because patience is a thing for me. Because the initiator, performer me likes to move. But the Jesus follower me needs to wait.

Yesterday I struggled. I drafted a friendly reminder to a friend who promised to send some key details about a project. But I deleted the text. But since Saturday was prime time to get this ball rolling, a few hours later, I drafted a text again. And deleted it again.

I have not so great a struggle with my vices, great and numerous as they are, as I have with my impatience. My efforts are not absolutely useless; yet I have never been able to conquer this ferocious wild beast.

French reformer John Calvin said that. I’m with him. My family and honest friends would agree.

How many times have I reminded my husband only to find he remembered? How many times have I sent a “❓“ when my text to a friend goes unanswered only to find she was on it?

Wait Beyond Your Waiting Point

Too many. For every one time I wait beyond my natural “waiting point,” there are two times I don’t. Times my impatience betrayed my weakness. Because strong people can wait.

But how do we grow and gain strength? Physically and spiritually, it’s the same. We must push ourselves, stretch ourselves past the pain point. To maintain we can do what we do—I can run the same 4 miles every day and do the same 150 saddle-backed pushups every other day and I’ll maintain fitness and muscle.

But I won’t grow. In order to grow stronger or faster, I’ve got to run the mile faster, or go two miles longer, or straighten my arms and my back for those push-ups.

To grow in spiritual strength, we must leave our comfort zones too. In his divine power (see 2 Peter 1), we must push my “patience-muscles” to new limits. When I wait it’s because I remember the truth that in our struggle we grow strong.

That means for me to grow more patient, I’ve got to make myself wait—to send or say—to the point where I feel like I can’t wait a second longer. And then wait.

And the times I’m able to do that, it’s because I’m playing by this rule.

The Only Safe Rule

C.S. Lewis was dealing with giving not waiting when he offered this rule. But when I anguish over how long I should wait, I find in his answer my only safe rule. [Mine.]

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give [wait]. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give [wait] more than we can spare. […] If our giving [waiting] does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small.

Mere Christianity, 82.

That’s the rule. Spend more time waiting than I can comfortably spare. My rule of thumb for waiting is that if I don’t feel pinched, I haven’t waited long enough.

My rule of thumb for waiting is that if I don’t feel pinched, I haven’t waited long enough.

Love Waits

Have patience. Have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry. When you get impatient, you only start to worry. Remember, remember that God is patient too and think of all the times when others have to wait for you.

I won’t lie. I sing Herbert the Snail’s song more now than I did in third grade. I’m not sure if I’m less patient or only more aware of my impatience. But when I remember how often others wait for me, it helps me wait for others.

Because my impatience is not love. It’s preferring my pace to theirs, and my time as more precious than theirs. It’s not thinking of others as better than myself. It’s not love. Because, love is patient. Love waits.

My loving friend waits for me when I’m late for our coffee date. My loving husband waits for me with the car pointed out Sunday morning. And my longsuffering Lord waits for me to wait every single day.

I’m not what I will be and I’m not what I should be. But, thank God, I am more patient than I was. I am learning— to wait longer before I hit send, to wait longer before I ask again, to wait longer before I text the “❓“.

Remember that text I drafted and deleted, then drafted and deleted again? How I waited longer than “I could spare”?

Well, round about 6 o’clock last night, this came.

“Sorry, Abigail, that I didn’t get back to you earlier.”

God smiled.

And I was so glad I waited.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy…

Colossians 1:11

The Flat on the Way to the Fair: Faith, Fire and Why Trials Come

God will take you where you do not want to go to produce in you what you cannot achieve on your own. –Paul Tripp

Inefficiency. Futility. Wasted time. Those are villains in my kingdom, three of my greatest foes. And they all piled into the van with me yesterday

9:30- The dew was still on the clovers and we-Cream Puff vouchers in hand- were off, like barn clothes after chores. State Fair was one of a handful of “non-negotiables” on our summer calendar; a taste of good Midwestern fun for our Korean exchange son, Ki-Bum. 

State Fair or Bust.

9:45- KER-PFUMP, KER-PFUMP, KER-PFUMP, KER-PFUMP.  So our right rear tire unceremoniously gave up its ghost. And the van came to rest along a lovely bachelor button-ed strand of I-43.

Rare, declared Ki-Bum knowingly. I nodded.  

Now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials…

Thankfully, Jim picked up the phone. We have roadside assistance, he assured,  Can you find the card? 

I did. And was soon informed that help would arrive within the hour. A little while. Various trials. 

Hey Mom, can we watch some Get Smart?  Gabe piped up, as his fearful tears dried. I brought them along, just in case. And Agents 86 and 99 and the old “Spy in the dog suit, phone in the tie” tricks passed three boys’ time. Now I can get a jump on those email. 

11:00- A Nissan pickup stopped behind us. Never mind that the tow truck was on another call or the four larger towns with towing services closer than this town. Not this guy’s fault.

These older vans with spares underneath- they can be a bear to release, Scott explained as he turned the giant screw driver round and round. But the spare wouldn’t drop. So he jacked us up and worked below while I worked that stubborn screw from above.

Well, I’m sorry. Scott finally said. If I had the tow truck, I could probably break it  loose, but the cable’s corroded. And maybe  this time ask for Rhode’s when you call. They’re just right up the road.

11:20- Scott rode off in his rugged Pathfinder.

…So that the tested genuineness of your faith- 

As  Agent 99 assisted 86, an agent three states away assisted me. I calmly described the first failed attempt  to put on the spare. And maybe Rhode’s  Service this time? I heard they’re in your network and just a a mile or two up the road.

May I put you on hold? she asked. 

Ms. Wallace? We have located roadside service for you. It’s the same shop as the first, but this time they’ll come with a tow truck. They should arrive in 45 minutes.

11:30- Here’s where my faith  faltered: Really? Really? You can’t find anyone closer? East Troy? Elkhorn? Waterfod? Burlington? Rhode’s is right up the road! I’ve been here almost two hours and there’s a town with a towing service a mile away. Scott-who you sent first -told me. 

Yes, Ms. Wallace. Your service should arrive within 45 minutes. They’ll be able to tow your vehicle, but you’ll need to secure a ride home. 

-More precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-

Tow it back? I just have a flat. The spare is right here. Their shop is 30 minutes south. We’re headed 30 minutes north- to the fair. And I’m supposed to secure a ride? 

Yes. I’m sorry, Ms. Wallace. Your tow should be there in 45 minutes. Is there anything else I can do for you?

Images of cream puffs and jersey cows and racing rabbits danced out of my head. Unlikely, I said.

11:40- What to my wondering eyes should appear but a Rhode’s tow truck behind me right here! Forget 45- this took 10!  I leapt from my seat to meet the Ken. He glanced at the flat, then down at his phone, Oh wait. You’re not the red ’05 Escape, are you?  

That’s probably the one up there, I said, pointing to the SUV that stopped on the shoulder a half hour after we had.

Sorry, ma’am. That’s the one I came for. Maybe I’ll check in with you after.  And Ken inched his truck up to the red ’05 Escape just ahead.

…May be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Chaos agents had captured Maxwell Smart and 99.

11:45- Jim, This is crazy. I’m waiting for the same towing service that couldn’t help me to come back as I watch a tow truck from a garage 2 minutes away helping a a vehicle 300 yards ahead. And Rhode’s does partner with our roadside assistance- Scott and Ken both told me so and how do I find a ride when they tow the van? 

Hon. I’ll see what I can do. Maybe Merten’s can tow you back to town. Sorry about the fair. 

God will take you where you do not want to go – or stall you where you do not want to stay- to produce in you what you cannot achieve on your own.

12:00- I paused my pity-party just long enough to see Ken’s truck backing toward us.

12:05 -Bring ‘er on up, Ken urged. So I eased the van onto the flatbed and all five of us crammed into the cab. Rare, I told Ki-Bum. And before Ken and I could connect all the dots around my Uncle Kevin who had been Ken’s friend, we were stopped in Rhode’s lot.

12:30- On the road again. State Fair or Bust. Or whatever’s necessary.

Why Trials Come

I wish I could say that Paul Tripp quote guided me through the flat. But I absolutely cannot.

But thank God, I can see it in the rear-view. I can see the grumbling, ungrateful, proud, impatient dross that tarnished my faith and needed boiling off. It was necessary.

So God allowed the blow-out. Then he sent Scott, without a tow truck, and Ken to the red ’05 SUV in front of us. He held off Rhode’s from up the road. All of it was in his good plan, to purify the precious faith He loves so much, a faith of greater worth than gold.

So why do trials come? I’ll answer that one with three more from Paul Tripp:

What kind of Messiah do you want? Do you want a Messiah that will deliver to you your ever-morphing definition of what would make you happy? Do you want your Messiah to make your kingdom work or do you want a Messiah to welcome you to a better kingdom?

I don’t know about you, but I want Him to welcome me to a better kingdom than my own efficient, productive, no-wasted-time little kingdom. More even than an idyllic morning at my beloved State-Fair kingdom. Way, way more.

A Sure Sign Of His Love

So I’m with Tripp: We’d better quit naming our trials and difficulties as a sign of God’s unfaithfulness and inattention. In the life of a believer those trials are a sure sign of His faithful, persevering, redemptive love. And with the Getty’s too: When trials will come, no longer fear, For in the pain our God draws near, To fire a faith worth more than gold, And there His faithfulness is told. 

God will trouble and shake us and allow trials that boil our faith, not because he’s mean and capricious but because he loves us and wants to welcome us to a more glorious kingdom. But it might feel dangerous, because he won’t relent until our faith is refined. Until we glisten with the image of His beloved Son.

Waiting in the van, I heard the Chief of Control say, Max, you realize that you’ll be facing every kind of danger imaginable? Max replied, And  loving it. 

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor.
 1 Peter 1:6-7

Gabriel Speaks

I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.

Luke 1:19b

Some of you know this story, but lots of you do not. And this is of all the days the best day to tell it. So here it goes.

Once upon on time, ten years ago today- but it truly began nine months before that or really even eight or seven
Yes, it was ten years plus seven months ago, Gabriel, when you first made your presence known.

But I really must rewind

Because it was ten years before these last ten years-

Twenty whole years ago, it was

In January when Dad and I- we two, were joined as one.

For most of those first ten years (Big brother came by plane after nine)

We hoped and prayed and tried (how we hoped and prayed and tried, and too much, I think, I cried)

And doctors consulted, tried this and that, and poked around inside

But all their methods failed- it just wasn’t the right time.

And empty wombs like empty stomachs sometimes ache 

But God’s children run their race and walk by faith and trust the promises true-

That our trials produce steadfastness and character and a hope that will not disappoint

That  no good thing will He withhold and they that wait upon the Lord will be renewed.

So we stopped the procedures and we ceased striving and tried less hard.

But still in faith we prayed, in His love we hoped, and life kept racing on

Then one fall- that fall Aunt Char and I decided, Sure, let’s run it all.

And I remember how

That September, my coffee didn’t taste as good and I was suddenly ready for bed by seven

Then came October, and snow,

But we sisters plowed on and  drove six hours north

To run that 26.2 mile course.

(Run we did -we three, the third, still unbeknownst to me- and we finished the race in four hours, give or take.)

Next week I took a test I’d taken a dozen or more times before

But this time, the stripes said YES, YES, YES- it’s true

Your frame was being finely woven by then for eight whole weeks

But that was when I first found out for sure about you.

And now tonight, ten-year old son,  I pinch myself and think how loud your name rings true

You are our YES  to countless prayers that God would grant us love’s sweet fruit

Your presence with your brother “HEARD OF GOD” was so good we prayed for more

But God, for righteous reasons only He knows

Has not again opened to us that door.

You are no angel, but still you are a messenger to tell

That God alone sets the times and the seasons and even the days

And that no good thing does He withhold

That His ways are not our ways (and that is all okay).

It’s been ten years today since I laid eyes on that long-lashed, lovely baby boy- and I never want to forget the messages I heard then

That we’d best keep running and look to Jesus even when we ache a lot.

That it’s when we cease striving that we can know that He is  God

And that the best gifts can’t be bought.

Because, after all, Who is like the Lord our God who sits on high and humbles himself to behold things in heaven and on earth? 

That’s is good news God sent you to tell us Gabriel, messenger of God.

Who is like the LORD our God,

Who dwells on high,

Who humbles himself to behold

Things in the heavens and in the earth?

He raises the poor out of the dust,

And lifts the needy out of the ash heap,

He gives the barren woman a home,

Making her the joyous mother of children.

Praise the LORD!

Psalm 113:5-7, 9

The Hardest Part: Waiting is not an interruption. It is God’s plan.

Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.

This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Isaiah 25:9

When, Mom? How many more hours until they come? 

The party starts in 9 hours and 20 minutes, Gabe.

Is that a long time, Mom? 

Yes, Gabe.

Now jump back with me 2,000 years. Think of the disciples. Imagine their wait. The risen Christ had appeared twice to the disciples.
But it wasn’t the same as before. Don’t cling to me, he’d said. I go. I am ascending to my Father and yours, he’d told Mary.
But Jesus had left the disciples but hadn’t ascended yet. Between the surprise dinner on Day 8 and Ascension on Day 40, there was a wait. Can you imagine their restless,  what should we do now wait?  

Peter went fishing. Gabe went out to play.

Waiting is our set stage.

Some friends have been waiting a long time in the adoption line. They’d waited awhile even before they “announced” their double Russian referrals to our Bible study with adorable, baby-blue frosted airplane cookies. That was almost four years before this. Before US-Russian relations dropped and our friends’ boy referrals did too.

But they kept waiting. Months later, a referral for another boy from another country came. But he was not to be their son either.  They stayed on the stage a few more months until another referral came. And kept waiting.

Then last month my friend posted this update:

We’ve moved on to the next step of waiting for approval! This did mean a flurry of things had to happen, including paperwork to get his visa and social security number, which meant [we] had to settle on what we were going to do about his name. 

I’ve read the wait doesn’t stop once you’re matched, traveling or back home. Considering we’ve been in the waiting stage (of various types) for a looooong time now, it was good to read that we might just never truly leave that stage and to mentally prepare for that.

You never truly leave that stage. She gets it. This side of heaven, we wait. From a seven-year old’s count-down to be eight to an eighty-seven year old’s count-down to be clothed, all creation waits.

Not An Interruption

For the Christian, waiting is where it’s at.

Our lives are on God’s stage. His choice crew are the Sanctified Waiters. Like Simeon, who waited for the consolation of Israel, and Joseph of Arimathea, who waited for the Kingdom of God.  

It’s where God shows up and shows himself strong. It’s the where we see God act. Surely no one has a seen like ours who works for those who wait for him.  

For the Christian, writes Paul Tripp, waiting is not an interruption of the plan. It is the plan.

Knowing that it’s part of God’s good plan doesn’t make it easy. Tom Petty’s lines are timeless, the waiting is the hardest part. We’re right there with Job- God’s servant Job-when we cry, What strength do I have, that I should still hope? And what are my prospects that I should be patient? (Job 6:11)

It takes great strength to wait. Weak people cave. David knew the connection. Be strong, and let your heart take courage and wait for the LORD (27:14).

God gives strength to the weary not after we wait but while we wait. While we we groan inwardly, we wait eagerly. That’s a good, hard Romans 8 wait.

Worth The Wait

We appreciate more who most patiently wait. The hours fasting before dinner make it that much tastier. Planning the trip is half the fun.

When we wait, we gain, what Jane Austen called, “that sanguine expectation of happiness which is happiness itself.” Maybe it’s not quite that sublime, but it’s true that anticipation of a good thing ahead eases the ache.

But still there is the ache. Waiting is a slow burn with undisclosed outcomes and uncertain timeframes. It tests our patience and tries our faith.

Waiting brings out old idols and can push us toward new ones, like control and self-pity and food and drink abuse too. We say, But if I only knew. It’s this not knowing that makes it so hard.  

In His Place, At His Pace is Hard. And Good.

Exactly. Waiting hard and good. We feel how hard it is. But we need to know that it’s good, because we might not feel that.

Waiting is good because our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on that for which we wait. When we wait for God, as John Piper puts it, in his place and at his pace-we show the watching world that He is worth the wait.

They see God’s worth when we don’t forge ahead with our own plans. But we must be on guard, because waiting tempts us in two big ways.

Two Waiting Temptations

Waiting can tempt us too take a rash detour– to get on with our plan and away from the wait- or to give up altogether. I’ve known both.

We were married ten years before God opened my womb. Mostly I despised that wait in that barren place. I was desperate to bear new life, at reckless price. But for Jim’s resolve, I might have taken a rash detour, taken up a plan, but not his. Only by God’s grace did I stay in his place. 

A few days ago our friends got “the call.” After years on the domestic stage, they fly in sixteen days. When God says move, I guess you move, my friend wrote. By his grace, they go at his pace. 

This is why we, who he created for his glory, are here. We are on this waiting stage to showcase his grace, to show others that the glory of our God is worth our wait.  I waited patiently for the LORD, he inclined to me and heard my cry. Many will see and fear, and put their hope in the LORD (Psalm 40:1,3). 

The off-stage watchers will see us wait for our God to act and, the Psalmist said, will put their hope in our Lord too.

What are you waiting for?

Your house to sell or to finally be well? A conception at last or a loved one to pass? Change in our nation or a child’s salvation? For family peace or conflict to cease?

Take heart: The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him (Lamentations 3:25).

Wait for it. Wait for Him. Stay the course. And remember, right now, at this very second, The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is whole toward him (2 Chronicles 16:9)

God is looking to help you wait well. Which means we don’t lose heart. We do the next thing.

Like Peter did.

Do the next thing.  

Somewhere between week two and day forty, after leaving peace with the locked-in Eleven, Jesus appeared to seven.  And he revealed himself this way:

Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out into the boat, but that night they caught nothing (John 21:2-3).

They did the next thing, while they waited. Remember what happened then?

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net n the right side of the boat and you will find some.”

The rest is history. Peter strips down, throws himself into the sea and they see the Lord for whom they’ve waited.

And guess what? While they were waiting in the boat, doing the next thing, Jesus was on the shore working for them.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread…Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” And Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead (John 21:9,12-14). 

This is our God. He works while we wait. He serves his servants and calls them his friends.

And One Day, we will finally exit this waiting stage. The Director will write us off.

And then we will say, You were worth the wait. 

From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.  Isaiah 64:4