German scientists have too much time on their hands. Instead of devoting themselves to something important, like curing people who enjoy wearing lederhosen, they’ve instead been preoccupied with researching how much time the average person, over an average 78-year lifespan, sits on the toilet. Six months, if you’d like to know.
According to a study published in the German science magazine Geo Wissen (which I was reading while sitting on the toilet), the average person will also spend five and a half years watching television, four years doing housework, and twenty-four years and four months sleeping.
For some reason I was particularly struck by how much of a lifetime a normal commuter spends stuck in traffic. Six months. Six months waiting for a light to change, an accident to be cleared, rush hour to start rushing… Six months sitting in a car.
Standing in line at a checkout aisle irks me the most. Especially when there are twenty cash registers but only one is open. I always get behind the person who wants to pay for a Kit Kat with a personal check. Or takes ten minutes to dig through her purse for exact change, like there’s an “Exact Change Award” or something. Or I get behind a guy who knows the cashier, and he and Hello My Name Is Gladys bring time to a standstill as they exchange details about their recent colonoscopies.
I should be more patient in these circumstances, but I guess I have a wait problem.
Of course, nothing’s so difficult at times as waiting on God to do something you want Him to. Part of the problem, of course, is that God may not be planning to do the thing you want Him to. And He’s under no compulsion to do it either (because He’s God, y’know, not a genie).
We’re not Aladdins. God doesn’t grant us whatever we wish if we just pray hard enough for it, let alone always grant it right away. There is power in sincere prayer, but prayer is not always answered the way we desire, even when it’s fervently and consistently prayed on behalf of someone else. Whatever God bestows or denies, I’ve become convinced of one thing in the midst of confusion and perplexity and impatience: Whether the answer to prayer is “yes”, “no” or “not yet”, the response is from a supremely loving, perfectly wise God who has our best interests at heart.
Not surprisingly, the hardest thing for me is to learn to see the blessing in “no” or “not yet”. For so long I’ve wanted certain things my way and now. But God the Father deals with me the way any capable parent ought to handle a selfish, impatient child: He teaches me not only that I shouldn’t expect to always get what I want, when I want, but also that what I want is not necessarily what’s best for me.
A sign of spiritual maturity is when our prayers are a lot less like “Lord, bless me and bless me now” and a lot more like “Lord, make me now a blessing to others.” Then the tyranny of self-centeredness is toppled and we experience the joy that comes from realizing that our deepest needs are met in meeting the needs of others. When I don’t insist on having things my way, impatience retreats like a Hollywood celebrity invited to a Republican fundraiser.
God’s timing is often frustrating to us, but the promise in the Book of Isaiah is that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.” If you want to fly like an eagle, not an ego, then put your hope in the Lord to make you a patient, others-centered person.
Have you decided to do it yet? Have you? C’mon, I haven’t got all day.