At a recent Mass, my pastor, Fr. Mario, said, “God waits.” I don’t remember the context or even what Gospel passage it related to, but I do remember knowing in my heart that it was a very important spiritual truth.
Those two words – God waits – led me to ponder how often God has waited on me. He is like a loving parent whose child insists on doing something by himself in his own way, even when his little hands cannot do it. But the parent waits patiently, sometimes making a suggestion. Yet the child rejects any help whatsoever. Eventually the child comes to realize that they actually do need help, and the parent is ready. The parent waits. Our Father God waits. Patiently.
This has been my experience with God. I insist that I know what I’m doing, that I am capable of doing it, that it is the right thing to do. And God waits. He knows I won’t listen. I need to prove it to myself, just like a stubborn 5-year-old child.
He waited for me during my 20 years of wandering; 20 years when I was away from the Church. He called me back many times during those 20 years – gently, quietly, like a whisper in the wind.
One way was during my Sunday motorcycle rides. My husband and I would ride all the time, often on Sundays, and when we passed a church (and we passed a bunch during our rides), I would see the cars in the parking lot and knew that was where I was supposed to be. I knew I belonged in church on Sunday morning, worshipping God. But I wasn’t. This was the Holy Spirit pricking my conscience. It wasn’t harsh, but very gentle. I kept passing by all those churches on Sunday mornings, and God kept waiting.
Another way he called me back was through the invitations of people I knew and worked with, who often invited me to events or concerts at their churches. I always declined, but they – by God’s inspiration – kept inviting. God kept waiting.
He even called me back through my dreams. I used to have a recurring nightmare of being in a big open area where a sniper was shooting from the top of a building at me and the others in the plaza. At the edge of the plaza was a church, and I knew that I would be safe if I could just get to the church. At the time, I didn’t understand that God was calling me back to the church through that nightmare, but it is very clear to me now. The world is a mess and dangerous and scary, but there is safety in God’s church. God kept waiting for me to realize that. Since my return, I no longer have that recurring nightmare.
The final calling to return came through the comment of a friend who mentioned that she had gone to Confession. I was convicted in that very short conversation to return to the Sacrament after 20 years. My friend didn’t intend or even attempt to get me to go to Confession. She was simply sharing something about her own faith. But God was done waiting. He knew I was ready to return – to Him, to the Sacraments, to the practice of my faith. And that was just the beginning.
As you can tell from my experiences, while God waits, he is not silent. He is moving in quiet and sometimes not so quiet ways in our lives. There are nudges to pray or worship. There are relationships developing with people of faith, even if we don’t recognize them as such. There are pricks to our consciences to help us let go of persistent sin. God is always active and we can see his hand when we look back to those days of wandering.
God waits for us at other times as well. He waits for us to recognize that he has a plan for us, and that we should seek His will rather than our own. He waits for us to get over ourselves when our pride keeps us from drawing others closer to Him. He waits for us to learn who He really is – the One, True God who loves us unconditionally. He waits for us to recognize our sins and bring them to Him, asking for His mercy and grace. He waits for us to learn to serve others before serving ourselves. He waits for us to stop talking so we can listen to Him. He waits for us to slow down so we can spend an hour with Him in prayer. He waits for us to overcome our fears about sharing our faith with others. He waits for us to stop criticizing others and judging the state of their soul. He waits for us to learn what it means to love another human person and to actually do it. He waits for us to surrender everything to Him. God is very patient.
How about you? How about me? Some think I am very patient, and in some areas that is true. I can listen to a child pitch a fit without getting riled up myself. I’m sure I inherited that from my mother who never raised her voice – and she had 11 children.
On the other hand, I am not very patient when I have an idea. I want to move forward immediately. I may not test the idea first. I just rush right in and get started. Maybe more patience with new ideas would be good for me.
I am not patient when someone I love is taking the wrong path. I want to fix them. I am not very patient when someone I love seems to be ignoring God – seems to be on the path that I took. I am not very patient when I have a plan to accomplish a goal and things start to go wrong. I am not always patient when the traffic is bad and I’m going to be late. I’m not always patient when others do all the talking and I can’t get a word in edgewise. I am not always patient with myself, especially when I mess up. Surely I should be perfect by now.
In all this impatience, all of my faults, God still waits. He still calls me to holiness, to love, to prayer, to service, to surrender, to trust.
So I pray for more patience. I pray that I can become more like God. I pray that I can wait and trust in God’s perfect timing. I pray that I speak what He wants me to speak, when He wants me to speak. And that I am silent when he wants me to wait. I pray to better discern how God wants to use me in drawing others to Him. I like the fast-track, but that’s rarely God’s approach. God waits. I pray that He grants me the grace to wait as well.
Questions for prayer:
When has God waited on you? How was He active during that time of waiting?
How can you be better at waiting? How can you have greater trust in God’s perfect timing?