Tom Petty once said that “waiting is the hardest part” and I suppose that is true for a lot of things. I admit that I struggle with patience. It is a struggle that has had negative impacts on me, my family, my relationships, and–subsequently–my ministry. I find myself saying that famous prayer, “Lord, give me patience and give it to me NOW!”
In all seriousness, I would have to say that my biggest struggle with patience is having the patience to hold my tongue. To many times I have not exercised the judgment of restraint, and instead have insisted upon my right to speak my mind. Invariably, I embarrass myself and I re-live my words over and over again. For years, I replay those scenes in my mind and live with regret.
My advice to everyone during this extremely turbulent time–as I write this the outcome of the 2020 US presidential election is still unclear and there are many accusations of fraud–is simple: Just wait. Before you say something or do something that you may regret, wait. Pray for clarity. Pray for the right words to say. Pray for our country and its leadership. Remember that the Lord still reigns, regardless of the outcome of this election. Trust me, as one who has too often spoken first and thought things out later, this is the better way.
Let me share with you two different times of when I actually followed my own advice here. I hope you find these two instances funny and hopefully you will understand why I issue a caution about the language that is to follow. Be warned, I use some profanity in these stories, and the purpose will be very clear at the end:
These two instances actually happened in close proximity–one the summer before my freshman year of college, and then winter of that year. In the summer of 1997, I was getting ready to begin my college career at the University of Nebraska–Kearney. I needed to raise some money to pay for school, so I took a job working at our local Wal-Mart. (Side note: I have some GREAT stories from my time at Wal-Mart! I should write about those some time…). I did all sorts of different things while I worked there, but the one area I spent most of my time was at the cash register.
When you are a cashier, you learn to “read” your customer and then how to best serve them. Some people come to your line and want to get out of the store as quickly as possible. They may be angry, in a hurry, or maybe they just are thinking about something else. In any event, they do NOT want to talk. Just scan and sack the groceries and let them get on their way. Other customers come to you and want you to take your time. They want to talk. You may have to be their best friend or their confessor. Some people want affirmation; some want attention; and some just need interaction with a friendly face. Those are the customers who need a little extra time and care.
Sometimes I would misread customers and they would get angry or offended. I always felt bad about those interactions, but I very quickly learned to stay quiet until I got a good “read” on the situation.
One day, a lady came to my line and she seemed friendly; she wanted to talk. So I talked with her a bit–not overly so, but just keeping light conversation. We got to the end of her order and she said, “I have some coupons for those goddamn Doritos.”
I know I paused. I was kind of surprised. She didn’t seem angry… she said it so matter-of-fact. Did I do something wrong? What does this woman have against Doritos? If she hates them so much, why is she buying them?
I snapped back to attention and could tell I had paused a little too long. “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite hear what you said…”
“I have coupons for those goddamn Doritos.”
I waited. I didn’t say anything. I wanted to ask her if I had done something to upset her. I wanted to apologize if I had done something wrong. But instead, I waited. I took her coupons and looked at them. Everything seemed in order.
She must have sensed I was a little perplexed because she said, “Now, those coupons aren’t good on ALL the Doritos, just the goddamn ones.”
As she said that, and while I was reading the coupon, I finally realized what she was saying. You see, in June of 1997, the next great Batman movie was released. Although it wasn’t as popular as the franchise is now, the marketing was ubiquitous. And sure enough, there were even “GOTHAM” Doritos that you could buy. And I suppose if you split it into “Got” “Ham” a person could get confused as to how that word is pronounced.
Immediately, I went about my business, we continued our conversation, and the customer paid and left. I waited… I actually paused for once in my life, and in the end, it was all a misunderstanding.
In August, I went off to UNK to start my college career. I was blessed to room with a friend of mine–someone who is still a great friend to me and my family. I love this man greatly and I am so grateful for his friendship. We hung out together, had long talks, played intramural sports together, and even would go to the dining hall and eat meals together with another friend of mine from high school. One day, after a workout, we decided to brave the weather and head out for dinner from our dorm (Randall Hall.) It was a little bit of a walk, but not bad at all.
On this day, though, we kind of misjudged the weather. It was a very windy day and when we got to the dining hall, we were hurrying to get inside. But as we were entering, a group of three ladies was leaving the dining hall, so we moved out of the way and the two of us passed the three of them somewhere in the entryway. As we went by them, one of the ladies yelled out, “Show us your nuts!”
What?? What an odd thing to say! Why would someone say that? I was floored. As soon as I got inside the building, I stopped and looked at my roommate. He was staring back at me.
“Did she just…?”
“Why do you think…”
“I don’t know, man.”
Now, I suppose we could have made a big deal out of it and made a fuss. But instead, we just let them go on their way. For their part, the ladies didn’t even slow down for a minute, so it made the comment even more unusual.
My roommate and I usually talked a lot about classes, sports… everything… when we ate together. But this dinner was different. This time, we were both so bothered by what was said that we were just completely silent. I am sure that I had a very confused look on my face. I could tell from my roommate’s face that he was just thinking about that comment over and over.
Finally, like some sort of inspiration, I realized we were all wrong. The girl had actually yelled out, “Shorts? You’re nuts!” You see, Nebraskans may remember that in the Fall and Winter of 1997, early-1998, we were hit with a lot of snow and cold. What I didn’t share with you earlier is that we had come from a workout or basketball game in our tank tops and shorts, through about a foot of snow in addition to that strong wind to get to the dining hall. After that revelation, our minds were at ease and we went about with a normal meal.
You would think that after two memorable experiences (here it is over 20 years later and I remember them clear as day) I would have learned my lesson: be slow to speak. Don’t jump to conclusions.
Scripture is very clear on this, especially in the books of Proverbs and James. Perhaps the most remembered verses are from Proverbs 13:3 and James 1:19. In the two instances I related above, I exercised patience and did not make a fool of myself, embarrass myself, or hurt or embarrass others.
But, man, it is HARD!
In the era of instant news and information everyone is an “expert” and speed is valued over accuracy. Factor in the contentious nature of this election cycle… and you can see the problems that confront us. For the sake of the Gospel, I urge myself (and anyone reading this) to please wait. Wait for clarity and wait before you react to something that may cause offense.
Of course, waiting is important in ALL things, not just in politics and relationships. Patience is necessary for our own lives. Again, I write this for myself more so than anyone else: Be patient. God is at work. I am currently in a “good stretch.” My chemo is done, my last scan indicated no cancer, and yet I have radiation treatments for six weeks, five days a week. I am in the middle of week two.
Why? Why radiation if I don’t have cancer? Why can’t I just get back to the way things were? My doctors want to make sure that there is no chance for there to be any cancer in my body since I had five lymph nodes that showed signs of cancer. And so I wait. My body is broken. Prior to my surgery in June and the chemo that followed, I had lost 60 pounds and I was walking our neighborhood, feeling good, eating healthy, and exercising daily. I was probably the healthiest (barring the cancer, of course) that I had been in about 15 years.
And now, I’ve gained back 10 pounds. I can barely walk the same amount that I did back in February when I started exercising. My muscles are sore from basic stretching or even from just sitting upright. I still have a few days a week when I need to lay down to rest. My mind is ready to GO… but I need to be patient.
Wait, Weber. Be patient. Remember that God’s Word speaks about this as well in Psalm 27:
Teach me your way, O LORD,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!