You would think that the Bible book called “Acts” would be all about action. But it begins with Jesus telling his followers to wait. We are told how these first disciples said goodbye to Jesus on the top of the hill just east of Jerusalem, and then he went up into heaven, but they had to come down the hill, back into the city, up into the upper room, and there they were to simply wait. It’s a lousy way to begin a book. You do not begin a best seller by having people wait around in their hotel room for something to happen.
Being stuck in one place is hard for us. We don’t quarantine happily. Let’s get on with it. No. Let’s learn to wait.
In Acts 1:4, Jesus tells the disciples to wait. Two verses later, the disciples sound impatient. They say, “Now. Now has to be the time. Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel, now?” Jesus shakes his head. He’s ready to leave. It’s been a wasted three years. He can’t seem to teach these guys to wait.
In verse 7, he tells them that God has all the time in the world. Then he says that after they are done waiting, they are going to have a special job. He says, “You will be my witnesses.”
Now a good witness does only one thing. They report accurately what they have seen or experienced. The best witnesses – wait for it – aren’t doing anything when whatever it is happens. They take themselves out of the equation and simply observe. They are standing on a street corner and they observe two cars colliding in the intersection. That’s the witness you want to put on the stand. Those who are busy driving or getting into an accident make lousy witnesses.
When the disciples got back to the upper room, they find Jesus’ mother. She’s just there waiting. Remember what she did thirty-odd years before this when Mary is told that her child will be the messiah and restore God’s rule upon this earth, what does she do? Wait for it – she ponders these things in her heart. It sounds a lot like waiting.
So, back in Acts 1 verse 14, we are told how the disciples and the women, including Mary, waited in the upper room and how they spent time praying. I imagine in my mind Mary using this downtime to teach the disciples how to wait. She succeeds where Jesus hadn’t. They spend the time they need to spend in order to become effective witnesses.
We will never be effective at anything in our lives unless we learn to wait. Developmental psychologists say that this is one of the most important lessons that a parent can teach their child. Those who haven’t learn how to wait don’t know how to defer pleasure. They can’t put something aside today so that it will be there tomorrow when they need it. Those that haven’t learned to wait make lousy friends. They don’t wait for you to tell them what is on your heart. They cut you off. They interrupt you. They offer you advice before you ask. They don’t hang around. They aren’t witnesses to the deeper things of life.
What has our experience with the coronavirus been about? It’s been about waiting. We have been given a couple of months, not to act, but simply to be. To pray. To observe. To learn compassion. To see the world, not for what it is so busy doing, but for who we are as human beings when we are made to wait. This has been a test. Only a test. How are we doing?