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have we forgotten how to wait?

We spend our entire lives waiting; waiting to grow up, waiting to finish school, waiting for our first paycheck, waiting to marry our soul mate, waiting for our next vacation, waiting for traffic lights to turn green, waiting for the summer blockbuster, waiting nine months for our baby to arrive, waiting for our kids to grow up, waiting to grow old, and ultimately, waiting to die.

And something we do everyday is to wait for public buses to arrive. In Singapore, IRIS (timing prediction technology) informs us of the time we would have to wait before the next bus arrives. If I could take you back to just a little over a decade ago, where none of these prediction technologies existed, you would have to wait patiently for your bus to arrive.

Naturally, we would have no idea if that wait would be three or 30 minutes long. In my childhood days, there weren’t as many bus shelters; I remember standing in the sun, squinting my eyes to look into the horizon, waiting patiently for my bus to arrive. It was uncomfortable to either read a book standing up because there were no seats in the bus shelter, or the sun would be blazing directly above you. Either way, you wouldn’t want to miss your bus because you weren’t paying attention.

In those days, only the more popular routes had double-decker air-conditioned buses (known then as a “Super Bus”) plying it. The service I took frequently was a Super Bus and it was easy to recognise one from a distance away. I’d spend the entire waiting duration anticipating a glimpse of a Super Bus. It would fill me with glee if that Super Bus was my Super Bus.

And despite the unpredictability and uncertainty of the bus arrivals, I’d still wait because the bus had ALWAYS shown up; I know it was not going to play me out suddenly or randomly. Even if the waiting time was longer than usual, I’d still wait because I know it will show up, just like it has the many previous times. And when the bus eventually shows up, it’ll make the wait worth the wait.

Today, fortunately (or unfortunately), we know exactly when our buses would arrive. Some apps can even trace the location of the oncoming bus! So we’d pop out our smartphones, books and magazines to kill the waiting time by reading an article, surfing the net or playing a game. In this age of multi-tasking, nobody likes to stand around, do nothing and just wait.

With all these seemingly helpful distractions around to occupy our time, it’s no wonder we have forgotten how to wait! Maybe that’s why we cannot relate to what Isaiah said:

But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. — Isaiah 40:31

It was a question I asked God to answer when I first stumbled upon this verse… And here’s the paradign shift – waiting for the Lord renews our strength because the Lord WILL show up. We wait for the Lord because He is certainly consistent and consistently certain. For when we are waiting, we are reminded of the Lord’s faithfulness in our lives as well as in His Word.

This is the reason why we must not give up waiting – it takes our eyes off ourselves and fixes our eyes on God; we are freed from our anxieties when we focus our attention on Him. When we wait, we ought to recall the many times that the Lord has delivered in our lives.

So the next time you need to wait for a bus to arrive, an event to pass, a promise to be fulfilled, or for the Lord to show up, know that the wait in itself is part of the process; waiting isn’t just passivity but an intentional and purposeful decision. And the Lord WILL show up in your life. No wonder our strength would be renewed, we’d mount up with wings like eagles, run and not be weary, and walk and not be faint!

Wait for it with conviction… Wait for it with confidence!

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are we there yet? when will we get there? where is there?

The Secrets to Successful Writing seminar with PY this morning was held at my alma mater, Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) at Winstedt Road. It was my first time back since I last collected my PSLE results in 1995, when it was still Anglo-Chinese Junior School at Peck Hay Road. To my surprise, NS is still there; pity I had to leave immediately after the seminar, otherwise I would have popped by the staff office to say hello to a beloved Primary 6 form teacher who played a part in my journey to know Christ.

Advances in mobile technology has allowed me to check for bus arrival timings via the iris NextBus online service on the SBS transit website. (Trivia: it stands for Intelligent Route Information System.) It will always be helpful to know approximately when the next bus would arrive. Now, why would I want this information? After all, it changes neither the duration of my journey nor my designated route. Heck, it doesn’t even predict traffic conditions or tell me what time I’ll arrive at my destination. So, what good does it do for me to know how long it’ll take before I board the next bus?

I believe that prior knowledge of waiting time reduces anxiety and frustration, and for some, it even helps to manage stress levels; commuting during peak hours is already an exasperating experience and I think a predictive information system serves an effective countermeasure to improve travelling woes as I’ll know how long I’ll be on the road, or track – and if the waiting time is too long, I’ll probably make alternative plans (whether to continue waiting, change the mode of transport or take another route) since I can already predict the eventual outcome. The same concept extends to the SMRT and to a lesser extent, roller coaster queues in amusement parks.

However, in the event that you don’t board your bus or train at the estimated time, you’d feel doubly frustrated and disappointed because your expectations have increased; this is inevitable when you try to control your anticipation (and excitement) of what’s to come. And when you change your plans, you deviate from what you are normally familiar with and have grown to trust and rely on. Hence, I’d like to think that regardless of prior knowledge, there will always be a set of challenges for any journey taken.

I couldn’t help but think that my experience with the iris NextBus today was a reflection of my daily struggle to trust God in either the big and small, or long and short term plans. I’d be the first to raise my hands to admit my reliance on my own Intelligent Route Information System to navigate through life’s crossroads and toughest decisions. When you do that, it takes away your trust and belief in God’s original plan as you apply your knowledge of the future, understanding of the present and experience of the past. Don’t get me wrong – that’s wisdom – and it’s not a bad thing. But a careless flirtation and an over-reliance on human wisdom can often cause you to become distracted and disillusioned with your intended journey. My advice? Tread carefully (pun unintended).

I’m sure you can identify with a wrong decision that sometimes ends up in a much longer journey, an encounter with an unexpected traffic jam or even alighting at the wrong stop; it’s only natural to expect that because you have ventured into an unknown and, if I were to epiphanise it, a valley of darkness that you completely did not prepare for or expect. And most times, it’s always a result and consequence of your decisions. This applies to almost every decision – be it relationship, finance or family-related, etc. When this happens, you will need to be responsible for your choices and account for yourself.

At the end of the day, I believe that if God gives you a vision, then the challenge and step of faith for you is to trust Him to deliver you to the eventual destination safely and surely. Thankfully, our God is an efficacious God and nothing in the journey goes to waste – regardless of longer routes, indecision, detours or even unforeseen accidents.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

These famous verses are plastered on most of the walls of any ACS auditorium, including the one I sat in today, and it serves as a sobering reminder to let God take control of the steering wheel of our lives. May you remember to relinquish control of your life the next time you check for the next bus or train arrival times.

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