Watching Versus Waiting
People use the words 'watch' and 'wait' synonymously. However, there is a
subtle difference between the two. To wait means to be in readiness or to
remain at rest in expectation. To watch is to look and wait expectantly or
in anticipation. You can wait while doing other activities. Watching
encompasses the concept of waiting and requires full attention from the
watcher. A person may be waiting and still miss the thing they are waiting
for, but this is unlikely to happen if they are watching. The following
story illustrates the difference.
Gina, a young girl, asked her grandmother to watch for her as she was
coming to visit that day for the weekend. And naturally, Grandma Lisa
promised she would. Wanting to stress the importance of her request, Gina
repeated it several times to her grandma, asking, "You'll watch, won't you?
You'll watch for me grandma, right?" Lisa, who was now becoming
exasperated, responded several times that she would. On the day that Gina
was due to arrive, Grandma Lisa thought, "I still have time to complete a
few chores before Lisa visits, so I'll just do them and then go outside and
wait for Gina and her parents." However, despite Grandma's best intentions,
she became engrossed in her tasks and lost track of time. Suddenly, Grandma
Lisa heard the bell. "Oh no, she thought, that can't be Gina already."
Running to the door, Lisa opened it expecting to see an excited Gina. But
instead, Gina was sorrowful. "Why the sad face Gina, aren't you happy to
see your Grandmother?" Grandma Lisa asked. To which her granddaughter
responded, "Grandma, you did not watch for me like I asked you." "Honey,"
said Grandma, "I was preparing things for you, while I waited for you."
"But Grandma," replied Gina, "I did not want you to wait for me; I wanted
you to watch for me." She wanted her grandma to be outside expectantly
looking for her.
This story reminded me of the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25).
Christ portrayed them as standing or sitting expectantly awaiting the groom
who could appear at any time. As the night grew old, the bridesmaids fell
asleep. While asleep a loud cry woke them in the middle of the night, "The
Bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him." As they opened their eyes,
the night was dark, and they could barely see, so they rushed to light
their lamps. We know the rest of the story; some could light their lamps
because they had extra oil. Others, unprepared with extra oil, could
neither light their lamps to herald his coming nor enter in with the
Bridegroom. What is represented by the oil? Ellen White is quoted in the
devotional, "That I May Know Him," with an answer to this question.
In the parable, the foolish virgins are represented as begging for oil and
failing to receive it at their request. This is symbolic of those who have
not prepared themselves by developing a character to stand in a time of
crisis. It is as if they should go to their neighbors and say, 'Give me
your character or I shall be lost.' Those that were wise could not impart
their oil to the flickering lamps of the foolish virgins. Character is not
transferable. It is not to be bought or sold; it is to be acquired (That I
May Know Him, p. 350).
In contrast to the foolish virgins, the wise virgins had righteous
characters. So, although the wise virgins appeared to be as indolent as
the foolish ones - none of them were watching for the Groom - the wise
virgins had retained oil, and therefore were prepared for the wait. Living
by faith, they were enabled to receive the groom. With that said, what
would have pleased the Bridegroom more: if the virgins had been waiting or
watching? Or both?
As the Groom approached the bridesmaids, he must have noticed that they had
been sleeping and that five were missing. We can only imagine his
perplexity and disappointment, as he questioned, "Weren't they supposed to
stay awake and light the way to the banquet hall? How is it they all fell
asleep? And why were only five prepared for the delay?" "They all knew I
could come at any time. …" It did not look good.
Was this a sign of things to come? This incident revealed that the
bridesmaids became weary after the long delay. And that while they
anticipated a delay, they did not expect an extended wait period.
There are things hidden deep within the recesses of each of our minds,
things which only the Holy Spirit through time and circumstances can reveal
to us, that we may through repentance and forgiveness, receive its blotting
out. Whenever the Lord gives a promise, a period of waiting ensues before
He fulfills His promise to us. His goal is neither to drive us to
distraction nor to frustrate us. Instead, He desires us to wait patiently,
expectantly, watching, enduring and persevering until its fulfillment.
Waiting is not a natural human tendency. We want whatever it is right now.
And our selfish natures find many ways of attaining our desires. Often
subconsciously we present our thinking or behavior in the most moral or
rational light, as we attempt to conceal our true purpose, for self to gain
the promised blessing now.
Jesus implied that in the Christian's life, waiting patiently would be an
issue; that's why He went so far as to say, "When I come, will I find faith
on the earth?" The delay which He is using for our good, to reveal our true
hidden state to us while there is time to repent, is instead used by many
to fulfill self's goals, which is to avoid true self-knowledge.
By remaining in union with the source of renewing energy or power, the Holy
Spirit, we are enabled by faith to 'be renewed in the Spirit of our minds'
(John 15, Romans 12:1). The battle, after all, is for our minds as well as
our affections. Watching and waiting patiently are not inactive pursuits;
they require vigilance, as well as resting and reposing in the Father.
"Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that comes to God
must believe that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek (inquire
of) Him." "You therefore beloved, seeing you know these things before,
beware lest you also being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from
your own stedfastness" (Hebrews 11:6; 2 Peter 3:17).