The Waiting Is the Hardest Part
I have always been taught that patience is a virtue. Often this discussion of patience was immediately surrounding my own impatience. I can remember very clearly being told how virtuous patience was while waiting for the school bus on a rainy day. There were even annoyingly slow songs about turtles and not being impatient. I have long suspected that patience is exactly the sort of virtue we hide behind because we are too afraid to step out and take God seriously.
In arguably the single coolest story in our Scriptures, the prophet Ezekiel finds himself in a valley filled with the bones of dead people. He walks back and forth among them and has a conversation with God. God tells him to preach to these dry bones, and immediately they spring to life and began to regrow flesh. The point is clear, God’s word brings back life where once there was only death. Ezekiel tells the people that what happened to these bones in the valley of death, will also happen to God’s people spread around the world. Resurrection is coming…but first there is waiting.
In our Jesus story this morning, the most confusing element for me is that Jesus waits. His friend, his very good, dear, friend is sick and dying, and like many of us he gets word that time is short. Jesus get the message that we all fear getting when a loved one is sick- come quickly, there isn’t much time. Your friend is dying, now is the time for impatience. Jesus says no. Jesus waits, because “this sickness will not end in death, but in God’s glory.” Jesus waits, because “he loves Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus.” Mary and Martha are understandably furious, because they know/believe/understand/have faith/have confidence/are convinced that Jesus could have healed their brother. The limit of their faith is the limit of their sight. They have seen Jesus heal before, but now he will do something new. Resurrection is coming…but first there is waiting.
As we near the end of Lent, it is a confusing, surprising, relief to be given stories of resurrection. The stories of resurrection encourage and challenge us to stay the course, to finish our season of preparation. I am struck again, though, by the pictures of waiting that precedes resurrection in our stories. The sort of waiting Ezekiel calls God’s people to is a waiting of repentance, fasting and renewed faithfulness to our God who brings new life. The waiting we see in Jesus’ story is full of prayer, sorrow and community. This sort of waiting- the repentant, honest, communal, expectant, hopeful waiting does in sound like virtue after all. In the end it is the end that makes the virtue. Patience is a virtue because of the cross, resurrection and reign of Jesus. Resurrection is coming…but first the waiting. And often times, the waiting is the hardest part.