Mother, May I?/ Hurry Up and Wait

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Do you remember the recess game “Mother May I?” I really didn’t like that game, but it taught me some important lessons. 1) Flip flops and stealth mode do not work together. 2) The amount of ‘fun’ the game is depends on who the ‘Mother’ is and how much ‘Mother’ lets you move. 3)  Waiting too long ruins the game.

This week has felt like a big game of “Mother May I?” for grown-ups. “Appointment line, may I please have an appointment this month? 0600? Sure. I’m sure I can find childcare.” Go ahead 2 steps. “Army, may I please have my husband home for any amount of time of Father’s Day?” Nope. Stay put. “Son, may I have 2 minutes without you clinging to me to use the restroom?” Not a chance. “Southwest, may I move my flight and get a small refund?” Go ahead 3 jumps.

Although my life is full of the unexpected and uncontrollable, I am still a planner and organizer. If there’s a game, I like to be ahead of it.  Yesterday I spent a lot of time packing. I packed clothes away clothes that I won’t see again until long after next Christmas. I packed a box of outgrown clothes for a great mom whose son could use them. I packed Goldfish into snack packs for the week. I packed VBS materials into a bag where baby hands can’t reach after my 1 year old snatched the scissors and went running as I unloaded the bag contents. I’m fairly certain the neighbors weren’t expecting that test of the emergency broadcast system. Most of all, I started packing for a trip that is over a month away. Why? Because between then and now I have major events that I have little to no control over, but total responsibility to handle. Don’t judge me- packing early isn’t that crazy. It’s just coping. It’s one of many ways to hurry up and wait.

When you grow up, you realize that all the ‘games’ you played as a child have new names and are more complex. Now “Mother, May I? ” is known as “Hurry Up and Wait”- the unofficial motto of the military. I first heard this phrase sitting in high school Latin class. I can’t for the life of me remember which Roman coined the phrase or why he thought he was so clever, but it did stick in my head. (Thanks, Mr. Abbe!) I tried to research it but became inundated with unwanted information. If you can identify that Roman general, I’d love to know.

As I thought about “Hurry up and wait” today, a few things sprang to mind. The first was that there was a lot of hurrying and running in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament.

I’ve always appreciated that the Bible is action-oriented; both the old and new testaments are chock full of soldiers and warriors. It made me wonder about the military mentality of hurrying up and waiting in the Bible—what does God have to say about it?  To the Book!

The Bible uses ‘hurry’, or some other form of the word 44 times. Hasten (KJV) gets another dozen references. One of the best known ‘hurry’ verses (thanks to the spike in Christmas attendance and reruns of the Charlie Brown Christmas special) is when the angels appear to the shepherds with “tidings of great joy” to announce that the Messiah had been born. They had a mission and location for what all of Israel had been waiting on.  “And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.”(Luke 2:5)  When Jesus grew up there was a lot more hurrying. There was hurrying to the tomb, hurrying to go and tell, hurrying to prepare meals… not to mention how Mary must have hurried back to Jerusalem when realized she had lost the Son of God.

Honestly, many more instances of people hurrying, hastening, running, and doing things with urgency came to mind than verses about waiting. Hurrying just seems more natural to the human condition. After all, isn’t that why God had to remind us to “be still and know that I am God?”

I thought of a few “wait until nightfall” , “wait for word” or “wait in Jerusalem” references, but mostly Isaiah 40:31: “They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will rise up on wings as eagles.” (I particularly like this verse. I hear from my elders constantly that I can handle things because I am young and energetic. Even youths get tired and weary and young men stumble and fall is how the verse starts, thank you very much.)

Shockingly, I was wrong. Wait and its various forms tally up 132 mentions. Ugh. ( For now I refuse to do the follow-up research on the word patience. At least not until my static-cling son goes to bed to avoid making him the object lesson.)After some study I realized that hurry and wait are always used in reference to another verb in the Bible.

Hmmm. Flip some pages…adjust glasses…

Go, Going, Went, Gone-  1,413 references. It seems hurrying and waiting are not interchangeable with going and stopping. They are just two parts of a process; ways  in which people go.

Before the trip I’ve hurried to pack for (because I just can’t wait!), there will be lots of going. There will be lots of hurrying and waiting. Hurrying to the bathroom. Waiting for bedtime. Hurrying to appointments. Waiting in traffic. Hurrying to find out the gender of my second child. Waiting for a call from overseas to celebrate with my husband before announcing it to anyone else. Hurrying to prepare the house for guests. Waiting for loved ones to arrive. Hurrying to the church to prepare for VBS. Waiting on further instructions. Hurrying to the airport. Waiting in line for security.

I’ve realized the problem may lie with my mentality.  When we start games with, “On your mark, get set, GO!”, go means go as fast as you can. Go means hurry. Going at top speed all the time a great way to run out of gas or wreck the car. Time to check myself before I wreck myself. Waiting also doesn’t mean stopping altogether.I think I may need another lesson on the meaning of “go”, but that will have to wait.  For now, I better hurry and make dinner; the family is waiting on it.

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