“God can’t steer a ship that isn’t moving.”
“God can’t steer a parked car”
You are likely familiar with one or both of these phrases—they’re two of those Christian truisms that we hear repeated over and over—while no one thinks to ask whether or not they are actually true. The idea is that we should ask God what to do in any given situation, then start doing something while we wait for His answer. After all, God can’t….
Advent is a time of waiting. Children (and plenty of adults) are eagerly waiting to open their gifts, while others can’t wait to see their look of surprise and delight. We may be anticipating the arrival of family members who live far away, or we may be the ones traveling to see them. If we’re frazzled by all the holiday bustle, we may simply be waiting for January!
In the church, advent is a time of waiting for Jesus. Yes, He is already here. But each year we anticipate His birth anew, and the difference His presence makes in the world.
We all love mountain top experiences. Perhaps you’ve been on your church’s retreat, or maybe you just took a break from the daily routine for some personal time with God. Either way, you’ve been listening and He’s been speaking. There’s nothing like hearing from God!
Sometimes, He’s full of new plans for us, or He comes and comforts us in our hour of need. Sometimes, we’re reading along in our Bible and the words leap off the page and into our hearts and minds.
And sometimes life consists of a series of days so alike, you can barely tell them apart. After all the excitement of plans and possibilities, new insights and clear direction, we’re left in the tedium of routine.
Lately, it seems I’ve been spending all my time waiting. My dad and I waited over an hour for a walk-in lab test. Pete and I waited an entire afternoon for some thunderstorms to pass through the area so we could play outside on our date day. And it seems as though our family has been waiting forever for our new granddaughter to be born! (She’s due soon, very, very soon!)
Even though I’ve been frantically busy, rushing from appointment to appointment and task to task, it’s the waiting that gets my attention. (Maybe because I’ve been so busy, and I don’t think I have time to wait?)
God doesn’t seem to mind waiting at all. In fact, He seems to make a point of forcing us to wait for things. Instead of getting on the ball and accomplishing something, he instructs us to develop patience.
I’ve been slowly (very slowly) going through God’s “Steps to Success” (found in 2 Peter 1:3, 5-8). After looking at faith, goodness, knowledge, and self-control, the next attribute is “patient endurance.” The Greek word used here, ὑπομονή (hypomonē), is also sometimes translated as perseverance. Each definition has its own nuances. Let’s start with “patient endurance.”
I confess in particular that I’m not very good at the “patient” part of “patient endurance.” I endure, all right, but I do it with plenty of griping and self-pity.
Forget “People of Walmart.” Try “People of Church.” While I haven’t seen anyone at my church wearing four-sizes-too-small glowing pink-and-purple spandex, we are definitely a motley bunch. In any church (and especially one as large as ours) there are bound to be some “interesting” people.
Some are exuberant worshipers, dancing in the aisles, while others refuse to even lip-sync the words, standing with arms folded across their chests. We have Mohawks and buzz cuts, long haired hippies and intimidating (until you get to know them) bikers in their church leathers. Maybe we even have you!