If you talk to anyone close to me, they will tell you that patience is not my strong suit. In fact, having to wait for things is one of my biggest pet peeves. When I first met my husband and in the first few years of dating, he used to remind me all the time that, “Patience is a virtue.” He thought he was being cute. He has since learned that he was not being as cute as he thought he was.
Since that time I have definitely been working on being more patient, but my husband and I met when we were both in college. This was long before I started praying for patience. This was also the time that I was getting my undergraduate degree in a science field so I was taking many different lab classes. I was not a fan of lab classes, hence why I chose to work in a dry lab. (A dry lab means I work on a computer, not with any real chemicals or specimen.) During those lab classes our experiments would have instructions and often those instructions would tell us about how long an experiment would take, but we were clumsy college students and that length of time was just a very rough estimate depending on how well we performed things.
So if it said that you would have to wait about an hour before you saw results, you might start seeing things at 45 minutes, or it might take an hour and a half, or you might have totally screwed things up and nothing was ever going to happen. You had to sit and wait and be attentive because some experiments were benign like the video below, but others caught fire or exploded if left unchecked.
The above experiment is the Briggs-Rauscher Oscillating Reaction. This is like Chemistry 101. It’s pretty and fun and proves a simple point more than testing your real ability to do science. At 50 seconds in they repeat the experiment with multiple beakers. Each one has roughly the same amount of the original liquid in each container and they stirred in the same amount of hydrogen peroxide into each container, yet if you watch long enough you notice that this cycle does not take the same amount of time in each beaker. They are no longer changing colors right to left any more.
So even with such an extremely simple experiment, it’s nearly impossible to know the exact amount of time it is going to take. This is true for almost all chemical reactions. You may be able to predict the final product based on the components you’re starting with, but you must remain vigilant and invested at all times in order to make sure your experiment goes according to plan.
This same idea was conveyed in this past Sunday’s gospel reading, Luke 12: 32-48. In this reading Jesus tells a parable of a master going to a wedding. It says, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.” It warns of those who slack off, assuming it will be longer before the master gets back, so they can wait. But the parable closes with a warning, “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
I’ve been working with high schoolers in a number of capacities for over a decade. When it comes to their faith in God and how strictly they follow religious rule, I overwhelmingly hear the response that they don’t need to care about this stuff yet. They’ll care when they get married or they’ll care once they have kids. For now they’re going to do whatever they want.
That is exactly the opposite of what this parable tells us. One thing I can tell you with certainty is that this life we live is unpredictable, much like my college lab’s chemical reactions. You might know what you’re starting with and hope you know the end product, but you don’t know how much time you have to get to that end point. You don’t know what will be thrown at you along the way. Jesus tells us in this scripture that we must be prepared and living out our faith each and every day. There is no waiting, there is only now.
As I said at the beginning, patience is not my biggest strength. So hearing these types of readings can be rather frustrating. I like to know everything ahead of time so that I can plan accordingly, but our lives aren’t like that, and our life after death is too important to take chances with.
In my science classes I was attentive the whole time because I wanted that “A”. I would do most anything for it. In another part of the gospels, Jesus likens heaven to a pearl of great worth. I’m not really into jewelry, but I do like getting good grades. So to me, getting to heaven is like an A++! If I would do anything for an A in a science class, how much more will I do for an A+ at life. Jesus said, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival,” so I will do my best to stand vigilant all the days of my life.