Netflix, The Magi, and Why Waiting Is So Difficult

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Netflix released a study earlier this year suggesting that nearly half of all couples cheat on each other!

I know that’s not necessarily newsworthy news for most of you. You’ve been lamenting this moral crisis of faithfulness for some time. What Netflix is suggesting, however, isn’t that kind of unfaithfulness…but a lesser kind. What Netflix discovered is that couples have a hard time waiting on each other…wait for it…to watch their favorite shows together!

The problem is compounded by the fact that Netflix doesn’t just host some of our favorite shows, but that they release every episode of our favorites shows all at once! Really, Netflix? How can we be expected to wait on our significant other when we just want to know whether or not Will really ever escapes the Upside Down (that’s a Stranger Things reference for the uninitiated).

Here’s what these couples have in common with every single one of us, and why Advent is so important for us to experience: they know that waiting is the hardest part.

The final week of Advent brings this into razor sharp focus for many of us as we count down the final days to Jesus’ birth. Time, in the final days, seems to crawl like the final hour of a road trip. Have you ever experienced this phenomenon? You’re on a road trip (and if you have kids then they’ve already asked, “Are we there yet” for the 80 millionth time), you’ve reached the state line and are a mere 60 minutes away from your destination, but those 60 minutes seem to take just as long as the previous 6 hours before them?

Waiting is hard, isn’t it?

I want to share a powerful principle I’ve been reminded of while reading through the story of the Magi during this season of Advent and I believe it’s something that can help us when the waiting is hard:

Timing isn’t everything, but faithfulness is.

Despite what most manger scenes suggest, the Magi didn’t make it to Bethlehem in time for Jesus’ birth (raise your hand if you didn’t know that)! They weren’t just beaten to the punch by the shepherds but by possibly two years worth of guests as well!*

The Magi, who traveled from some unknown destination out east, have been on a long and presumably harsh journey that has kept them waiting and waiting and waiting, and when they finally get there, they’re late to the Christmas party!

I wonder if the Magi ever second guessed their decision to head west in search of the one for whom they hoped to find. I wonder if they were ever tempted to turn back. I wonder if they ever considered whether or not their gifts were truly fit for a king.

I wonder because waiting is hard and it exposes our weaknesses.

Waiting and Insecurity
When we find ourselves stuck in the in between – that place somewhere in the middle of where we started and where we hope to be – our insecurities can rage and blow up. We begin to ask if what (or who) we have hoped for is worth it, whether we have what it takes, and whether or not we should just turn back and give up. Waiting leads us to ask the kinds of questions that our insecurities are begging to answer and that’s a dangerous place from which to determine whether or not to keep going.

This isn’t all bad. There may be times when the answer to all of these questions keeps us from making a terrible mistake. Waiting, after all, can bring us to a moment of clarity that we sometimes miss in the excitement of starting a new journey.

Perhaps, though, we are exactly where we’re supposed to be, but we’re tired and have grown impatient, and the waiting coupled with our insecurities is tempting us to give up.

Remember, timing isn’t everything, but faithfulness is.

Waiting and Shortcuts
At other times, when we find ourselves stuck in the in between, we are tempted to take shortcuts. In these moments we might think that the qualities we’ve been looking for in another person we want to spend the rest of our life with aren’t that important after all. While waiting, we decide that integrity in our job isn’t as important as it once was because in all of our waiting we’re eager to get the promotion we’ve been hoping for. Just like waiting in traffic causes us to be anxious and look for alternative routes, waiting in life can lead us to take shortcuts that undermine our long term happiness.

Remember, timing isn’t everything, but faithfulness is.

I wonder how many of us, especially during this time of year, are restless in our waiting for what we’ve been hoping for. Here’s what I know that you know, that Netflix couples know, and the Magi knew – waiting is hard, but in the end, if we’re waiting on the right kinds of things then it will be worth it!

Hang in there, friend. Continue on the journey.

Are we there yet? No, not yet.

But we’re getting closer!

_________________

*The Magi arrived in Bethlehem sometime after Jesus’ birth, not on that day.  The text in Matthew 2 says that after Jesus was born, Magi came to Jerusalem looking for him and then traveled to Bethlehem where they found him in a house and worshipped him.  When Herod realized he had been outwitted by the Magi, he ordered his soldiers to kill all male children 2 years and younger in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

I’m not down on manger scenes or movies that get this wrong.  Such things are telling a story worth hearing, but when we conflate Luke and Matthew’s accounts we miss out on what each author is trying to convey.