Mrs. Sands was my fourth-grade teacher. She was a soft lady . . . a lovely person, with lots of experience. She was my first teacher in this new school. I remember her being especially tender toward this frightened nine-year-old boy. But the most vivid memories I have of fourth grade were not of Mrs. Sands or Whittier School. They are not of our classroom with squeaky wooden floors and lift-top desks to hold all our things. What I remember most about fourth grade is waiting.
For some reason, during that year of my life, three o’clock never came. Almost every day, around one o’clock, I can remember glancing pleadingly at the huge, round timepiece on the wall above Mrs. Sands’ desk. My heart would sink, knowing I had to sit there for two more hours . . . two very long hours. And there was absolutely nothing I could do about it—except wait.
A lot of childhood is about not getting what you want when you want it. Do you remember what it was like to be told, “You can’t have that now. It’ll spoil your dinner,” or “Not now. You have to wait for Christmas morning,” or “Sit quietly at your desks until the bell has rung”?
When was the last time you really wanted something but you couldn’t have it . . . you couldn’t get it or even put it on a credit card?
Thankfully, most of our days of going through the ordeal of waiting are behind us. Being able, as an adult, to control more of our lives is a blessing. Sure, there are things we want that we can’t have, but we have far more control of the events of our lives today than we did when we were nine. Correct? Yes, but there’s a downside.
With waiting comes wonder, hope, the thrill of receiving what we’ve so desperately anticipated. Dinner tasted so much better because I was really hungry. Christmas morning held such awe because I didn’t shake the packages. My mother’s open arms after school were—well, they were what this lonely nine-year-old boy desperately longed for.
The writer of Psalm 42 knew all about this. He drew us a picture of a thirsty deer, longing—panting—for a cool stream to satisfy him. Then he tells us that his soul, the most intimate part of his life, couldn’t wait for God’s tender presence. God has become the satisfaction of his deepest hunger. The day has arrived—the day to eat a lavish meal, to open the brightest packages, and melt into the embrace of a mother.
Have you lost this wonder? Do you pride yourself in getting what you want, when you want it, never really having to wait for very much?
If you have found yourself leaning toward the crag of instant gratification, watch your child . . . no, become your child. Remember the wide eyes and pounding heart, knowing that the big day is right around the corner. Then ask God to fill your own heart with the kind of love for your Heavenly Father that mysteriously draws you to want more—more of his love, more of his forgiveness, more of his guidance . . . more of Him.
I’ll bet you can hardly wait.