It’s winter in the northern hemisphere. January has turned to February, February will soon be March, and we’ll start looking for the first signs of springs. Daffodil greens … buds on the trees … the return of birds that migrated south. We’ll start looking, but the temperatures where I live will still be mockingly low. It’s cold. It’ll be cold for a while yet. Every day I’ll hope it’s a little warmer, and every day when it’s not, I’ll think, Will spring ever come?

I know it will. But when winter refuses to loosen its grip, it’s easy to forget. It doesn’t feel like spring is on its way.

This weekend, we’ll celebrate my son’s fifteenth birthday, so of course my thoughts drift back in time, to when I was, to put it biblically, “large with child.” I remember sitting at my mom’s birthday party, what turned out to be three days before Rowyn came, but still three weeks from his due date, and thinking, I am so uncomfortable. I need this kid to come soon. That pregnancy hadn’t been fun–I’d been sick the whole time, I hurt from my insides to my skin, and while the thought of actually giving birth again gave me a rather hilarious moment of panic, I also felt that impatience that pregnant women are rather famous for feeling. Is this ever going to be over? I want my baby NOW! We know that days in the womb equal health for the baby (most of the time), but even so. We’re impatient. We want to move from potential to actual. We want fulfillment.

We know they’ll come. The child in our womb will not stay in our womb. But it doesn’t always feel that way.

God, when He created the universe, created it with motion. We mark that motion and call it time. He made us that way, as creatures who live in time and rely on time. He gave us minds capable of dividing that time into smaller and smaller portions, down to nanoseconds … and into larger and larger portions, counting millennia and epochs. We can count it. But we can’t escape it. We are children of time.

And we’re impatient. We look at the march of seconds and hours and days and weeks and months, and always, we yearn for that next fulfillment.

We wait for things–and we don’t always wait well.

We wait for the next season. The next break. The next vacation. We wait for that promised child, the promised job, the promised raise. We wait for the healing we need, the new treatment, the answer.

We wait. And we resent the now that isn’t the then, when we have the thing we need or want. We stretch always forward, thinking the future a bright and sparkling thing, and we look back, remembering the past as something better than where we are. How long, Lord, we pray along with the psalmist. How long must we wait for You?

But we don’t serve a God who is slave to the motion of time He created, as we are. We serve a God who exists outside it, who looks on all of creation through all of time with omniscient eyes. He sees the then. He sees the now. He sees the was and the will be. He shapes time in His hands, sets us exactly where we need to be within it.

And He makes us promises.

I remember the days when my kids were toddlers. The span of their lives was so short–every day felt BIG to them. Every promise seemed to take forever to happen. “Is it time yet?” and “Are we there yet?” and “Mama, now?” were familiar phrases.

I remember a few snippets of those days from my own life. Do you? I remember being maybe four or five and visiting my grandparents. My parents were telling a story–I don’t remember about what–and they said it had happened a week ago. “It did not!” I remember yelling. “It was months ago!” It wasn’t. It’s just that it seemed so long ago to me, and I would have sworn–did, as a matter of fact–that it had been far longer than a few days.

How often is time, is fulfillment, is the promise skewed by our perception?

As I read through the Bible in a year last year, I marveled time and again at how this plays out in Scripture. God made a promise to Abraham. He promised him, first, a son. It took decades for this promise to be fulfilled. Decades! How many of us would be that patient? If a child is the deepest desire of our hearts and God had promised us one, would we just wait on Him to fulfill the promise? Or do we think, Maybe He meant I’d be a parent through some other means? like Abraham did.

God made promises to David, to the prophets, to Israel as a nation. He promised them a Savior, He promised that they would be the means by which the whole world was blessed, He promised them they would be His people and He would be their God. He made a covenant with them–far stronger than just a promise, than just words–and that covenant came with expectations. Things they needed to do–things He would do.

But it took time. Decades. Centuries. Millennia.

Is it any wonder, then, that Israel got impatient? That they forgot? That they slipped away? To their eyes, God was taking too long. He’d forgotten them. It didn’t feel like the promise was ever going to come.

Looking back from the 21st century, we know that it did. That He kept His word, gave His Word, and fulfilled His covenant. We know that in another blink of His eternal eye–whether that’s a day or another million years–He’ll fulfill the final promise of a Second Coming, of a New Heaven, a New Jerusalem. We know that eternity will overtake us and time will pass away.

But it doesn’t feel that way, as we’re struggling and striving against our own sins, our own limitations, our own weaknesses. Does it?

It’s never easy to wait. Not for the things we most need, we most yearn for. It’s never easy to be stuck in time and yet serve a God who is outside it. And yet … and yet there’s comfort there, too, really.

We can rest assured that what we mess up in the moment, He will redeem in the ever-after. When we can’t see the next step on the path, He’s looking on from above the maze, already knowing how it will turn out. When we think we can’t make it one more day, He already knows their full number and stretched them out just so for us.

We can know that those pieces we least understand will ultimately be for His glory; and that His glory means our good.

We don’t serve a God of the get-rich-quick, the instant-results, or the satisfaction-guaranteed. But we serve a God of eternal promises. A God of covenants. A God of His Word.

It isn’t easy. Neither is waiting for spring, or the arrival of that precious newborn, or the cure. But we wait, because that’s how He made us–creatures bound by time. We wait, and we learn, in the waiting, something more about Him. We learn what eternal means. And we learn, a little more, how awesome is our God.

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