Monday, April 14, 2008

Waiting – God’s Loving Way of Discipline

The following reflection comes from Alfred Pang. He writes:

“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline … because the Lord disciplines those he loves as a father the son he delights in.” (Proverbs 3:11-12)

I was teaching a group of students on how a child acquires self-discipline. Apart from being given clear boundaries, a child undergoes delayed gratification; that is, a parent says ‘No’ to a child who wants something instantly and gives it only when it is good and more importantly, when the time is right. As I was speaking about this, it dawned upon me that God, our loving Father, raises us up to be mature Christians in the same way. Simply put, delayed gratification is learning how to wait and not simply waiting … but waiting in God’s time.

Waiting in God’s time … such is His loving way of disciplining us. The beautiful verse in Ecclesiastes 3:1 attests to this: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” However, in our consumerist culture which promotes instant gratification, we have become a wanting generation, forgetting the beauty of waiting. We want, and are found wanting … And to wait for the Giver, whose time is Eternal, we can and do often find ourselves impatient, frustrated and restless. Isn’t this how a young child feels when his or her desires are not immediately gratified?

Yet, I find my consolation in Isaiah 55:8 – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”. This is also a challenge for us to accept God’s ways which are infinitely higher than ours. To embrace waiting in a spirit of surrender then is radical because we step out of our need to control time and hand it over to our loving Father. This to me is another level of emptying and freeing that we are called to. Personally, I still want but God’s loving way of disciplining me to wait has deepened in me to live more fully the virtue of patience. (Strange that I should be a teacher and found wanting in patience.) And this waiting is never passive, but active. I’m inclined to listen more as I wait. There is also the joyful anticipation in faith for the Lord promises us in Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Waiting is God’s natural rhythm of things. I’m reminded here of how a fellow brother had to plant his own corn during his religious training at the Philippines. He was relating to me how he could no longer conveniently buy corn off the supermarket but had to wait for the plant to grow and bear fruit … Perhaps, vocation is like this. God plants the seed of His call in all of us and our desire to respond fully to Him will be harvested in His anointed time. God not only waits for us to respond, but waits with us. Even more so, He puts us through a time of waiting to purify our intentions, such that we grow in maturity to become the persons He wants us to be. And vocation is made all the more beautiful and precious because of the waiting …

And so, to my fellow companions on the journey, as we wait for God’s plan to unfold in our lives, we wait as a community … just as Jesus instructed his disciples in Acts 1:4, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” Let us pray then that as we wait, we do so with the assurance of the peace of Jesus who promises us that He’ll never leave us orphaned. In expectant faith, we also pray that the Holy Spirit will grant us the wisdom to know the rhythm of God’s time, and the courage and zeal to move forth in obedience to the mission He has in store for us. Amen.


photo by murray neill

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