I was a terribly impatient kid.
One Christmas, when I was about four years old, I bucked the tradition of Advent Calendars.
You see, I had decided that something seemed wrong with having to wait twenty-four hours to eat one piece of chocolate a day. Especially when the little windows open so easily, revealing the tiny pieces of sweet, delicious chocolate that were so accessible to my toddler hands.
So one night, only a few days into the brand new Advent Calendar, my parents found me huddled behind a couch, sticky fingers, chocolate-induced knot in my stomach, and – you guessed it – empty Calendar. While it may have only been December 3rd or 4th, you would have thought it would have been Christmas Day if my Advent Calendar was your only timepiece.
As an adult, I’m not much more patient.
There is a temptation in our culture to settle for something that is “good enough” for now – there’s half-love, starter homes, in-between jobs. There are names that we give the people and things that fill the space between right now and God’s best. And some of these things aren’t bad – after all, a job and shelter is a necessary thing – but we tend to be barraged by the constant cycle of waiting, then getting something good enough, and then waiting for something better, and then waiting, waiting, waiting for what God has for us. Our soul is tossed back and forth in an emotional cycle of hoping and praying that our waiting will end soon. Or believing it has and then realizing that what we possess isn’t God’s best. We can start to ask the question: “Where are you, God? Haven’t I waited enough? When will you deliver on Your promises?”
In my moments of extreme impatience, I’m reminded of the patience of Jacob.
In Genesis 29, Jacob is fleeing a dangerous situation of his own making when he stumbles upon Rachel. His heart is overwhelmed to tears – this is his girl, he has to have her. So Jacob makes a deal with Laban, Rachel’s father – if Jacob will work seven years for Laban, Laban will give Jacob Rachel’s hand in marriage.
*needle scratch* Seven years?! Now, if I were Jacob, I probably would have tried to make a better deal. But regardless, seven years is the number they agree to, and Jacob joyfully gets to work, imagining his future life with Rachel.
Jacob had his eyes so set on what was God’s best for him that Genesis 29:20 tells us that the seven years he worked to have her “seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.”
But those seven years are about to get a whole lot longer. When the seven years are up, Jacob crosses the last date off on his calendar and rushes off to find Laban. He reminds Laban they had a deal – “Give me my wife. My time is completed, I have waited long enough.”
But instead of sending Jacob Rachel, Laban sends Jacob Leah. The Bible tells us that Leah wasn’t the best looking. Compared to Rachel, Jacob was pretty disappointed. And understandably furious. Jacob cries out to Laban the following morning, when he realizes Laban’s trickery – “What are you doing?! I thought you had sent me the one. This wasn’t the one at all. This wasn’t the one I waited for and worked for. Why aren’t you holding up your end of the deal? I held up my end.”
Laban does his best mob-boss impression and says, “Alright, alright. I get that you’re upset, so I’ll make you a deal – you work seven more years and I give you Rachel.”
At this point, I would have probably decided that in-laws like this aren’t worth fourteen years of free labor and all the trickery that landed Leah in Jacob’s marital bed. But regardless, Jacob has his heart set on Rachel. He has his heart set on God’s best.
And so Jacob works seven more years. He works until he has God’s best. And eventually, Laban gives Jacob Rachel.
Wow. Fourteen years, Jacob waited for his spouse. He waded through detours, anger, lonely days of work, just to have God’s best. And when he could have easily settled for half-love and God’s half-best, Jacob eschewed that in favor of more years of waiting.
Jacob waited until he had what he knew God would be faithful to give. And in retrospect, those years of waiting seemed like a day in light of the joy of having Rachel – the joy of having God’s best.
How am I handling my season of waiting? Am I content in knowing that one day, I will look back at this season and marvel at its shortness when the days sometimes feel so long?
When detours come – when my waiting is interrupted with things that seem good-enough but aren’t God’s best – do I trust God enough to wait a little longer?
Is my heart so set on God’s best that I’m willing to wait longer to have what He would give me?
Will I eschew compromise or choosing “close enough” in order to have “just right?”
Will I recognize that my waiting is preparing in me patience and reliance on God’s plan instead of immediate gratification or self-sufficiency?
May we, in the midst of our waiting – for a new job, a new relationship, a new house, or a new beginning – be reminded that we serve a God that holds in His hand the desires of our heart. New blessings may not come when we want them to, they may take a little longer to get here – and we may be tempted in the in-between to settle – but may remember that, one day, this season of waiting will seem so short in light of the gift of what we were waiting for.
Psalm 62:5 ESV: For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.