I was outside playing in the yard with my kids a few days ago. Quite often my daughter will ask me (the MOMENT I step foot in the door) when I get home from work if we can go outside and hit the whiffle ball. I know she loves this activity so I typically say yes. Upon hearing this, my son then leaps off the couch in excited agreement, as if it was his idea all along, and we all go whack around the ball for a few minutes before dinner.
My daughter has always been good at hitting the ball. She is pretty athletic and has very good hand-eye coordination. Over the last few years I have had to make our whiffle ball games increasingly difficult in order to challenge her. I switch out the bat, use smaller balls, and throw sidearm to confuse her. None of it works. She still peppers the neighbor’s roof during each whiffle ball session.
My son, however, is a different story. He is younger, mind you. He’ll be four in a few weeks but has never really had gotten the hang of swinging the bat. He tends to whip it like a golf club, scraping the ground and flinging dirt everywhere. I’d show him how to stand and swing but he always looked more like an axe-wielding woodsman than a composed baseball player.
Again, he’s not even four yet but I was so anxious for the day when he’d start making contact with the whiffle ball.
During our most recent whiffle ball game, my daughter, like usual, smacked another curveball over towards the big trees in our yard. It’s a pretty decent hit with a whiffle ball. I went to retrieve it and found it nestled in the branches of our azalea bushes. Now, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with these bushes. They are STUNNING when they are in bloom. However, they are ugly and wispy during the other eleven months of the year. They are hardly what you’d call attractive most of the time. In fact, I have considered yanking them out a time or two because I was tired of looking at them. Without petals, they’re pointless.
But this time I looked closer. I noticed that some of the azalea buds were just about ready to pop. Almost all of its flowers have opened by now but there are a few late bloomers there on each bush. The flowers are gorgeous. The buds look so pretty themselves. Even with the fully formed pink flowers on the adjacent branches hovering nearby, the tiny pink buds still caught my eye. They were just about to open. It was almost time for them to explode with color. They were just about to make a name for themselves among the matured petals.
I thought about the verses that many of us know so well but forget so easily:
Ecclesiastes 3 (NIV)
1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
These verses are often quoted at funerals but they are about so much more than death. They are about experiencing all God has for us IN HIS TIMING.
I thought about this as I looked at my azalea blooms. I couldn’t take my eyes off them even while my kids were yelling for me to continue the whiffle ball game. I started thinking about how often my patience was improperly placed.
I used to be a more patient person. I think we all were once. The advent of social media and its popularized short video clips has made it tougher for us to concentrate… or wait. We live in an Easy Bake Oven-kind of world. We want our brownies in 30 seconds or less. In reality, homemade brownies taste better and take at least 30 minutes, not counting the actual measuring and mixing of ingredients. Whatever we want, we want it now!
Sometimes, God wants us to wait.
I have been learning about patience this with my book. I launched Finding Joy Beyond The Headlines in September 2018. I have big goals for it. I set a sales-goal that I KNEW I couldn’t achieve on my own so that when it happened, I couldn’t take credit for the accomplishment. God would get the glory. But, as I am finding, that requires patience. It requires that I wait on God’s timing. So far, I haven’t met my goal. But, there is a time for “every activity under the heavens”.
Patience pays off.
I think too often we run low on patience. We think our ideas about when things should happen in our lives rule the calendar. Look at those verses again. There is a time for “every activity under the heavens” and God holds the hour glass. We don’t, as much as we’d like to. I outline a few ways I’ve had to wait on God in the book. I’ve found that usually what I wanted wouldn’t have been right for me when I first wanted it. I didn’t know that. God knew that. It was only after I conceded control to God (in other words, practicing patience) that the thing I wanted occurred. Sometimes, God even did something BETTER than I wanted. That’s the payoff for patience. We know God has our best interest at heart but we need to give him control over the timing of those interests.
Psalm 37:4 (NLT) says “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires”.
Psalm 37: 23 says “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.”
Continue reading verses 9-12:
9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.
Seeing the first bud pop on my azalea bush was exciting. It got me thinking about spring and how beautiful my yard would be. But, had the flowers all popped at once, that beauty would have only lasted a week. Staggered blooms guaranteed prolonged beauty. It’s the same formula God works with in our lives.
I am working on my patience when it comes to my plans, my book goals, my family dreams and my career expectations. There is a payoff for patience.
My son surprised me during our last whiffle ball session. He connected on a few swings in a row. He even hit a line drive back at me that left a whiffle-mark on my knee. He laughed and laughed as I pretended to stumble around in agony due to the vicious blow to my leg. The frustration I’d felt when he wasn’t “getting it” were a distant memory. His smile was worth the wait. There is a season for “every activity under the heavens”. He had never had so much fun hitting that whiffle ball.
Patience paid off.