When my daughter and son-in-law were newlyweds, they rang our doorbell late one night to introduce us to the newest member of their little family—a muscular, square-jawed boxer puppy named Maddie. Her full name, they informed us, was Madeleine, in honor of Madeleine Albright, the first female Secretary of State.
I can’t recall why they chose the name but it’s a distinguished one, for sure, and over the years Maddie has almost lived up to it. She is not fluent in English, French, Czech, and Russian, with good speaking and reading abilities in Polish and Serbo-Croatian as (according to Wikipedia) the esteemed Ms. Albright is. She will, however, sit still as a statue with a tennis ball balanced on her nose for as long as you want, which I think is almost as amazing.
Unlike most of the rest of us, Maddie has learned how to wait.
Put the ball on her nose and, eager as she is to toss it into the air and catch it, she will wait…and wait…and wait—staring at it cross-eyed—until you give her the go-ahead. Pour food in her dish and she will wait, drooling in anticipation, until she’s given permission to plunge her massive maw into the kibble and chow down.
As an eye-witness I can testify that Maddie didn’t start out this way. She started out like every other puppy. No self control. Totally dominated by her little doggie flesh. Yet today Maddie has this marvelous maturity, this quality of endurance and patience that sets her apart from the run-of-the mill mutt.
And she has it because of her masters’ discipline.
If, like her namesake, she was multilingual (or linguial at all) Maddie might talk to us about this. She might preach us a sermon about how we should all learn to wait. She might tell us that if we don’t want to end up like pound-puppies, we must submit to the loving discipline of the Lord. (Heb. 12:5-6). We must learn to sit! or stay! when He tells us to, even though we are practically frothing at the mouth to get moving. We must grow up enough to stop running around in the energy of the flesh trying to make things happen and wait—for what might seem like forever sometimes—for the leading of the Master.
If Maddie could read the Bible, she might even quote scriptures to us, like…
For since the beginning of the world Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, Nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him. Is. 64:4
Be still, and know that I am God. Ps. 46:10
…let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:4 (Did you know that the word patience there can also be translated waiting?)
Dogs can’t preach, of course, and that’s too bad because there aren’t many people preaching about the virtue of waiting these days. Instant results are all the rage. Anything less than all-action, all the time, is unacceptable.
It’s a good thing Moses didn’t live in our day. He couldn’t have spent 40 years on the back side of the desert waiting for God to tell him what to do. He would have had Christians galore goading him to get busy. “You know you’re called to be the Hebrews’ deliverer!” they would say, “What are you waiting for—a burning bush?”
If he brought up the fiasco with the dead Egyptian he’d buried in the sand, Moses would have been met with slogans like: Get over it. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Just do it! Then he might have been directed to a Leadership Conference, a website on Developing Your Spiritual Gifts, or a book about Marketing Your Ministry.
I’m not mocking those things. They can be good and helpful. But I’ve noticed this: Few of them teach us anything about waiting on God. And there is so much about it that we desperately need to learn. In our contemporary church culture where external production is constantly measured and applauded while inward maturity and soul development is undervalued and even ignored, we hardly know what to do when the Lord says to us, “Be still…and wait.”
But if we are ever to become mature sons of God, we must learn.
Lord, help us all.