The Quicker the Better

By Ross Engel

Few things are quite as frustrating as waiting for a response. Whether you’re waiting for a response to an email, a returned phone call, an answer to a question, or a million other things, time sure seems to drag on and on while you wait. And the longer one waits, the more frustrated they get. It’s easy to get impatient.

Earlier this week, I had to contact my doctor. I had a little mishap in the gym and managed to drop a 45-pound weight plate on my foot. My foot swelled up instantly. Pain coursed through my entire leg. Even though I was wearing shoes, it drew blood. My wife encouraged me to get an x-ray. She’s usually the rational one, but I just wanted to walk it off. Ultimately, she convinced me. Reluctantly, I called my go-to guy, the guy I call Doc.

Now, Doc is typically a quick response type of guy. A call, a text, or an email, and he is “Johnny-on-the-spot” with a reply. Perhaps the pain in the foot made the forthcoming response seem slower than usual. To be honest, the pain made any amount of waiting excruciating, and I really wanted a quicker response than I was getting.

Commenting on the role of technology in education in his 1995 book, The End of Education, Neil Postman addresses quick responses, saying, “Will speed of response become, more than ever, a defining quality of intelligence?” While I’m not sure if this has become a reality within the field of education or if it is a proper measure of intelligence, I do believe that the quickness of one’s response has become a measuring point for the quality of products and services. For example, our own Jagged Word Facebook page lists a response time of 58 minutes for messages that are sent to us (along with the gentle encouragement from the Facebook overlords that we need to respond faster to improve our rating and presence). Restaurants live and die by the pace of their kitchen and food service. Just read the online reviews! Pizza delivery companies have created apps to track the lifecycle of your pizza. Amazon tracks your package from shipment to delivery by the minute. Even hospitals post their ER wait times on billboards and the web. In a world ranked by quick responses, you’re either quick, or you’re dead.

A quick response isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. In a moment of tragedy or disaster, quick action can save lives. Quick thinking can be a tremendous asset in the right situations. But I can’t help but wonder if perhaps we’ve allowed quickness as a measure of something’s quality or service to permeate too many aspects of our lives and vocations.

Consider your own stations of life, all the things God has given you to do. Parent. Spouse. Child. Employee. Boss. Citizen. Service member. Pastor. Christian. In each of those vocations, we feel the gentle, or even not so gentle prodding, to do what we’ve been given to do, only quicker! To respond faster and then to measure the completion of a task by the amount of time it took, from start to finish.

In Matthew Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head, he writes of his visit to an organ maker’s shop. While the book itself is focused on attention and the affects of this digital age on our attention, the chapter on the organ maker’s shop allows the reader a glimpse into the reality that quickness and quality are not always synonymous. In fact, the painstaking process of handcrafting an organ from raw materials takes time, skill, and attention to detail. Beautiful craftsmanship is not lauded for its quickness. Rather, the meticulous attention to detail and the time it took to craft. It is an exercise of patience and a time of anticipation for the individual awaiting its completion.

Good things come to those who wait, or at least so the commercial says.

But what about God? It often seems like He takes forever to give an answer. We pray for something, and then we wait. We pray again. We wait. Sometimes we get frustrated. Sometimes we get angry. Maybe we start to doubt whether God is listening, whether God even cares. We ask ourselves, “Why doesn’t God respond?” “Why doesn’t He answer more quickly?” “Why is He so slow?” “How long O Lord must we wait?”

God’s people have been waiting and waiting and waiting for Jesus’ promised return—a return at the End of the Age that will bring with it great joy, the resurrection of all flesh, the end of the futility of this sin filled life, and the complete fulfillment of all God’s promises. But until that day, we live in this sin-filled world. And life is filled with all the struggles and problems that each of us face each day. And while we wait, our voices join the cries of the saints and the cries of all the brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who howl in anguish, “How long, O Lord!?” How long must we endure divisions, struggles, sickness, sorrows, and the effects of sin? How long will death and the grave stand before us with menacing jaws? How long?

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9

Our Lord God is not slow in keeping His promises to us. Everything happens in His own perfect time. He will keep all His promises to us, and we patiently wait, trusting in His Word of hope and making good use of the time that He has given us. In faith towards Him and fervently loving one another. Jesus declares several times in Revelation 22, “Behold I am coming quickly!” And He truly is! God’s response may not be as quick as we might like it to be, but in the end, His promised restoration of all things and the beauty of life everlasting will be well worth the wait.