At the end of a challenging day, my mind can sometimes play strange tricks on me while I’m preparing dinner. The other night while I was cooking steaks, I was suddenly visited by Marlin Perkins, the host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, a show I used to watch during the 70s. Sprawled out on our orange-plaid shag rug, a tribute to the only decade that could proudly spit in the face of good taste, my siblings and I would wait with breathless anticipation for the weekly episode. Actually, we probably didn’t really have anything better to do, but I like to romanticize my memories.
Marlin Perkins was always a bit stiff in his presentation, the way a small child is a “bit stiff” when he suddenly develops rigor mortis while throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of a parking lot. Perkins’s stiffness was the perfect contrast to the excitement of the wild animals displayed on the show. There was nothing quite like watching a pack of cheetahs hunting down their prey on the Serengeti and hearing it narrated off cue cards with the dispassionate voice of a golf commentator.
This same voice emerged through the steam as I prepared dinner and sensed the arrival of my pack of three young cubs.
A pack of big cats smells its prey downwind and creeps stealthily through the Serengeti. Keeping them fed can be extremely dangerous, and they need an awful lot of food. Circling their victim, the predators lick their chops, waiting for the kill. In split-second timing, they pounce. No longer concerned with stealth, they open their mouths and shriek…
“WHEN is dinner going to be ready?”
“Fifteen minutes,” I answer.
“WHAAAAAT? Fifteen minutes? Aaaaagh!!!!!!!” And the cats scattered back to the hills.
I shouted after them to “be patient,” and then I remembered Voting Day.
This year I dragged my kids along with me to vote. I thought it would be a good idea for them to experience the thrill of fulfilling one’s patriotic duty. I thought it would fill them with a sense of good citizenship. I thought I was an intelligent person, up until that moment.
Standing in line for two hours is hard enough without children. But if you have them with you, and the end of the line is not something worthwhile like a ride at Disneyland, be warned.
The voting station was set up like a cruel mirage, making you think that if you only could just get to the next corner, the wait would be over. We shuffled along like old men in slippers, but the line snaked on and on with no end in sight. It didn’t help that the people who had finally voted had to pass by us on the way out, and they all looked like they had spent a month in a concentration camp. How could I blame my kids for whining and complaining, when I couldn’t even feel my own legs anymore? I guess adults are not much different from children when it comes to impatience.
Fifteen minutes seemed like an eternity for my kids to wait for a meal, and at first I was annoyed by their impatience. Ironically, I was impatient with their impatience. But while the rest of dinner was simmering, I took them on my lap and snuggled. When you are waiting for something, you should make the most of the opportunity.
No one likes to hear that “patience is a virtue,” especially not kids waiting for their dinner. Or adults waiting for their prayers to be answered.
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.
Sometimes a prayer can take months or years to be answered. This kind of patience is a hard pill to swallow in our fast-food society. We expect prayers to be answered quickly, if not immediately. Sometimes we treat God as though He is a vending machine. We offer up a prayer and expect a bag of blessings to come falling out of a chute. When the dollar bill keeps being rejected, we angrily shove it back in and demand our food immediately, sometimes kicking and screaming. And God help us if we request Oreos but end up with pretzels instead.
God is not into fast-food prayers.
The older I get, the more time and effort that I put into my meals. A good soup takes a long time. Traditional soup is simmered for an entire day, but the hot, delicious soup is worth the wait. Canned soup can be opened in a second, but it contains miniscule chunks of mystery meat, which taste something like the can, but not quite as good.
When it comes to receiving an answer from God, we need to let the soup simmer. Does God have the ability to answer a prayer as quickly as you can open a can of soup? Of course. But if we could receive everything as soon as we asked for it, where would our believing be? How would we ever develop our patience, strength, and faith? And sometimes there is a battle going on behind the scenes that we can neither see nor understand. When we are waiting for an answer, we need to keep praying and trusting that God is working on our behalf.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…
God is not a drive-thru window. Racing through life with faith like French fries will only result in heartburn. And while we’re waiting for the delicious end result, we may as well curl up on His lap and snuggle for a while.