My friend has two precocious, talkative daughters.
And, while he was driving our group of travelers to the airport, they asked a question that every child in back seat asks their parent:
“Are we there yet?”
My friend, ever the patient father, answered literally, “No, we have about 40 miles to go.”
Two minutes later, “Are we there yet?”
“No we’re not. Now we have 38 miles to go.”
All of us adults in the front of the car laughed.
We all had to answer that question from our own kids.
And we all remember asking our parents that same question on long car rides.
Earlier in the trip we overhead the girls engaging in imagination play, and spinning up an entire fantasy world involving dolls and stuffed animals.
And we remarked that we wished we still had their creativity and imaginative powers.
But the downside of unbridled imagination is its inability to handle unrelieved tedium.
From the hyper-imaginative perspective of a child, the repetitive nature of a car trip is a torture.
Time passes slowly as the lines on the road pass by over and over and over again without an end.
“Are we there yet?”
Unrelieved tension. Unrelieved monotony. Unrelieved heartache. Unchanged, bad situations. Unhealed bodily pain. Unresolved relational conflicts.
Is there any one of us that doesn’t find the journey of life, at times, insufferably long and painful.
So we, too, ask our Father in heaven, “Are we there yet?”
When will this end? How long must I put up with this? Why don’t You do something?
I’m tired. I’m hungry. Can’t we stop? Can’t we go to someplace fun instead?
The car of life keeps going.
“No, we’re not there yet. There’s quite a bit of journey left. Stay in your seats and find something positive to do.”
Are small kids don’t find that answer particularly comforting or satisfying.
Neither do we.
Are we there yet?
What we’re talking about, of course, is patience.
The quality we hate to develop. The quality we desperately need.
Patience is a giving up of control over the clock.
It is living by and living under somebody else’s timetable.
It is the ability to calmly, contentedly waiting for the Other to set the pace, and to go as slow or as fast as He rather than we want to go.
The word in the Bible for it is “long-suffering”. Or, better, a long, unmet, passionate desire.
We want something very badly, very passionately. And wait a long time with this unmet desire.
Not getting the relief we want deeps our ability to endure longer and more deeply.
It takes greater and worse things to knock us off our stride, distract us from our task, or take us out of commission.
We can delay gratification for longer and longer periods, suffer greater afflictions, and therefore achieve more and more difficult objectives.
That’s why the by-produce of patience is resilience, perseverance, and grit in the face of harder, longer, more difficult adversities.
It’s the difference between green troops who get spooked and run at the first sight of trouble, and battle-toughened veterans who are impossible to dislodge from their positions.
And the hardest, most worthwhile, most strategic assignments go to such troops.
The question, “Are we there yet?” is a tell-tale sign of immaturity, a signal that we’ve got some growing up to do.
Patience is a quality our modern society does everything in its power to make unnecessary.
So we develop people with shorter attention spans, who are increasingly distracted and antsy in the face of smaller and smaller obstacles.
And who therefore are overthrown by lesser and lesser adversities. And who react more strongly to smaller slights, minor irritations, and petty annoyances.
The escalate smaller and smaller molehills into bigger and bigger mountains–creating havoc in all areas of life.
They need and crave more and more protection from tinier issues, reaching a state of “learned helplessness”.
And the co-dependents who rush in to save them and protect them are actually creating monsters the rest of us have to live with.
So God, being the perfect Father, allows us to suffer and wait and grow up so we can gain the character needed to do the most important jobs for His kingdom.
It’s not cruelty, but love, that allows patience to grow and fosters a higher and higher pain tolerance.
No, we’re not there yet.
But we’re on our way and the process is the destination!