Our culture is one that demands immediacy, while simultaneously begging us to demonstrate patience.
I recently heard a cell phone commercial on the radio touting the company’s new plan that allows customers to upgrade “with no waiting.” Listeners were told that they shouldn’t have to wait for their contract to expire to get the latest phone. You deserve to have things now.
There would be nothing unusual about this ad—there are dozens like it—unless the same company had not immediately played a public service announcement about the dangers of texting and driving.
The tagline was literally, “It can wait.”
They seemed completely unaware or unconcerned they had spent the previous 30 seconds telling me how I should not have to wait to get what I want, only to tell me the exact opposite right after that.
I’m supposed to refuse to wait to get the hottest phone, but I am supposed to wait to text my wife that I’m in some traffic and running late.
Those conflicting messages undermine each other. And, if I’m thinking cynically, I know which one the phone company is most concerned about.
The cell phone provider recognizes ours is an instant culture. Everything is judged based on speed and immediacy.
Netflix allows us to watch our favorite shows immediately on demand. Spotify does the same for music. Twitter gives us instantaneous news and information. Having our cell phones with us tempts us to engage with those things at every moment of the day.
But where can we go to slow down and shut down? Is there a place to simply be still? Who is advocating a counter-culture of patience? Who is consistently saying, “It can wait.”
If we pay attention, the Bible is full of waiting.
Noah waits, saved from the flood, but still removed from land.
Joseph waits, unjustly sold into slavery and locked into prison.
The Israelites wait, slaves in the land of Egypt.
David waits, crowned king, but not enthroned yet.
The people of Judah wait, carried away to Babylon in Exile.
Israel waits, looking for the long-expected Messiah.
The disciples wait for Good Friday to become Easter Sunday.
Today, Christians and creation wait, anxious for Christ’s long-desired return.
Patience is a virtue with which we should be familiar. It is a fruit of the Spirit and a character trait we often want others to display toward us. But have Christians so adopted the cultural demand for now that we are no longer seeking to live out the characteristic of a Spirit-filled life?
The world recognizes the importance of patience. They know you shouldn’t merely take whatever it is you want, whenever it is you want it. But they have no foundation for it.
Like the cell phone company trying to appeal to our impatience, while reminding us we need to be patient, culture will always give a contradictory message.
We can see a consistent theme of patience in Scripture. The Bible is a book of hope and waiting. We can wait because we have seen God fulfill His promises in His perfect timing.
“It can wait” because we know one day our waiting will pay off. On that day, we will finally get all we truly desire—Who we truly desire. And He is so much better than a new cell phone.