Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37
I don’t think I could go back to life without computers—or the internet, for that matter, this unimaginably huge storehouse of information that sits somewhere mysteriously beneath my fingertips, a few keystrokes from the confines of my basement office. I use it constantly, really.
Computers speed things up—I can red-pencil my students’ papers faster because of “word processing,” even though, by the way, I use neither red pencils nor paper. I can and do communicate instantaneously with hundreds of people, no matter where they are in the world, as long as they’ve got a modem. One might think that our lives would be less hurried because of the instantaneous reach of technology today, but that’s not so. The computer has made those who use it frequently more, not less busy.
What’s more, it facilitates our very human weaknesses.
A couple of years ago, some friends asked me to pull off some schtick at their children’s wedding. I did. People thought it was funny, but apparently not our friends—well, apparently not the father, who sent me a blistering e-mail a day or so later, a note he typed out with the kind of vengeful glee we feel as we vent. Slap some keys and punch send.
Why point these fingers? I’ve done the same thing more often than I care to admit. In my entire life, I don’t remember ever sending nasty snail mail. But e-mails?—don’t I wish I could have some back.
A computer doesn’t facilitate waiting. If I’m typing along—as I’m doing now—and suddenly it occurs to me to check on some deal I’m working on elsewhere, I can minimize this screen, flick out a note to Zambia, and return—fifteen seconds max.
I can’t speak for others, but the sweet advice of this verse of Psalm 37 seems to me to be far easier said than done in this computer age. I wonder if my own expectations of God’s almighty hand—what he could and even should do in my life—aren’t in some ways predicated upon a sense of time that’s in part defined by the instantaneousness of a machine that falsely promises more but delivers, somehow, less.
When my father died, a poet friend of mine sent me a poem he’d written at the death of his own father. That poem offered the most startling picture of timelessness, of eternity, that I’ve ever considered—specifically, that those who die before us don’t sit around in some heavenly café, awaiting the arrival of the next bus, hoping it will include loved ones.
Because the dead exist out of time, they really don’t miss us; via their clocks, we’re, in a way, already there. Waiting is a time thing, not an eternity thing. I love that idea because I don’t like to think of my father waiting, even though, of course, we do.
Waiting is a purely this-world job. God almighty doesn’t punch a time clock. There isn’t such a thing in eternity. His time isn’t time at all.
Which makes patience almost heavenly, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s why this verse seems so easy to say and so difficult to do. As everyone knows, patience is a virtue, a virtue to be practiced, something I need to work at. . .he said, his fingers bent over the keys.
Lord, help me breath easily.