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Parking Lot Patience
A few weeks ago, I was driving to the mall over my lunch break. I had hoped the drive would be quick; I wanted to get in, buy some lunch, and get out quickly. But it wasn't turning out that way. The mall was PACKED that day. Usually it's a little busier around noon on work days, but this day it was tenfold so. Every parking spot was filled, cars were parked illegally off to the side, I even saw cars zooming down the lanes the wrong way just to snatch up the spot of an exiting patron. I drove around in circles for awhile, increasingly agitated.
As I became more frustrated with the situation, I suddenly realized what was going on. I had been praying all along, without even realizing it! Yes, praying. My "prayer" probably went something like this: "I'm in a rush and I deserve a parking spot; I wish a parking spot would open up right now!!!"
Why do I call that a "prayer"? Because of John 11:42. Right before Jesus performs a miracle, he addresses God, saying, "I know You always hear me. But I have said this for the people standing here, so they may believe..." That reassures me that God is always listening, to every word, every thought, every tear, every moment of frustration, every desire in our heart... everything you or I have ever thought of or felt, whether you believe in God or not. He's that close! (I should qualify that statement by saying He hears every real thought, but that's another discussion entirely.)
So yes, the frustration that was brimming silently was, effectively, my "prayer" in that moment. I never said it was a very good prayer! In fact, most of the other drivers in that parking lot were probably also praying a variation on the same thing. But the prayer which says "I deserve a parking spot!" also inadvertently says "I deserve a parking spot more than anybody else here." And that's rather unrighteous and selfish, wouldn't you agree? That's not so much about honoring God, as it's about honoring me, me, me.
So I realized that I needed to change my prayer. I needed to put God into the equation. I decided, "okay God, I know You are patient, so I'm going to focus on being patient, too." Then I stopped my car - stopped frantically driving around in search of a spot - and just waited. No one was immediately behind me. I let go of the stress and frustration I had been feeling, and just focused on being patient. Within 30 seconds, a car right in front of me that I hadn't noticed pulled out, opening up a spot for me.
We have a choice, when confronted with stressful situations, whether we want to look at things like they're a human competition, or whether we want to take a moment to consciously pray. In this moment, my prayer went from being an unconscious, selfish prayer to a conscious prayer that only wanted to be more Christlike, to some degree. This kind of conscious choice to act more Christlike, moment by moment, is more important than merely getting what we want. And rather than feeling like we are burdened with having to do everything ourselves, having to win a human competition, it becomes easier to recognize how God is able to, and does, answer our prayers. Try it!