During my travels, I ended up at a trade show where they were doing a cooking seminar. The chef discussed each step as he was grilling steaks. He made the comment, “the grill will let go of the protein (steak, chicken, fish, pork, etc.) when it’s time.” As someone who has shredded his fair share of chicken and burgers while grilling, this was a great learning. It is a fact that all protein will stick to the hot grill grates as soon as it makes contact. As the protein cooks, it naturally releases from the grill, and that is when you can turn it over with a pair of tongs.
This is a lesson in patience. When we are forced to wait, we are reminded that we are not in control. Things will not always happen on our timing. Our timeline is not the ultimate timeline. My wife learned this while going through childbirth, no matter how hard she wanted to control the process it was not hers to control. I am also experiencing this concept on a different level. My Mom still lives in the house I grew up in while she also spends significant time at her home in Florida. She has discussed selling the house and moving out, but that needs to be when she’s ready – not when I or anyone else thinks it is time.
Many things in life are like the protein on the grill. We work, invest time, and expend energy for growth and progress. Yet, we don’t always see results in our timeframe, so we lose patience and can tear things at the edges – just when a little more time is all that’s needed.
Patience is the ability to endure delay without getting angry or upset, a state of peace in the heart. Patience can be the willingness to suffer inside so that others can grow. It reveals love. It gives birth to understanding. Impatience is an inability to wait without getting angry or upset. When we’re impatient, we’re focused internally. Patience is faith in action. It is a valuable character trait to develop. On the surface, patience appears passive, but it is not. It is an active and focused form of self-discipline.
We need to have patience but also work urgently. John Wooden once remarked, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” A task can be urgent and yet demand a slow, methodical approach that thinks in years and decades instead of days and months. Urgency requires patience to ensure that integrity is not undermined. We can be urgent with what we control; but we must be patient with what’s out of our control. Staying urgent with what we control in the process can lead to more opportunities. Being patient with what is out of our control can build trust. Urgency without patience can result in a nightmare, patience without urgency can result in a daydream.
Urgency does not mean impatience. Urgency is an indication of importance that requires swift or timely action. Urgency is not a state of the heart, but a state of the facts. If an airline pilot encounters an equipment failure mid-flight, he must act with urgency. If a company must generate additional revenue at year’s end to meet its budgetary needs, the sales team must act with urgency to close deals. A healthy sense of urgency is a key contributor to success.
As Charles Swindoll noted, “God often prepares us for something great by sending us into the shadows to wait.” It is God’s timing. A great scene in the movie Rudy, is where he prays in the Basilica before learning the fate of his last-chance application for admission to Notre Dame. Father Cavanaugh walks up and sits down with him and Rudy says, “Maybe I haven’t prayed enough.” Fr. Cavanaugh laughs and says, “I’m sure that’s not the problem. Praying is something we do in our time. The answers come in God’s time.”
Waiting is a way God prepares us. It may be a while before God moves us into a place of significant impact. It could be months or even years. British author James Stalker wrote, “Waiting is a common instrument of providential discipline for those to whom exceptional work has been appointed.” That statement plays out again and again in the Bible. Moses was 80 years old before he encountered God in the burning bush and David waited 13 years to be king while fleeing Saul. Abraham had to wait on God for a son, an heir that would make him into a great nation. Mary held onto a promise from God for 30 years that her child would be the Messiah. In Romans 8:25, St. Paul writes, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.”
Are we going to wait God’s way? God is working through our waiting. Waiting increases our trust in Him and reminds us we’re at the mercy of His timing. We live in an accomplishment-driven culture where value is measured and marked by productivity. How much we get done defines our worth. Waiting pulls that from our grasp and destroys our idol of ‘efficiency.’ God uses waiting to make us humble, it can expose our vulnerability. God is in charge, and we are not.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven.” God has determined the appropriate moment or time. We cannot know that moment; nor the wider course of events and purposes fixed by God.
Patience is an attribute of love. Knowing God is in control, we are free to love with patience. We are called to demonstrate patience in all our relationships and circumstances. When we’re impatient, we’ve lost sight of that fact that God is in control and we’re focused on ourselves. God’s patience gives us the time necessary for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, to draw us to him, and to make it clear that he is a gracious and loving God. It’s what he does in loving us.