Friday, March 15, 2013

"Wasting" time for the glory of God!

A couple of weeks ago, we went through the process of registering two of our children for a new pre-school.  This sounds simple enough, but in Russia, signing up for pre-school is a big (loooong) ordeal. 

First were the medical tests. All children must have a clinical blood analysis, clinical urine analysis, test for worms, tests for some other types of parasite, and test for TB. Then, they must have an evaluation by these doctors: orthopedic doctor, eye doctor, dermatologist, neurologist, speech pathologist, psychologist, surgeon. We went to doctor’s appointments nearly every day for 2 weeks to fulfill all of the requirements, and of course had many failed attempts when we either had the wrong hours, had brought the wrong container for the analysis samples, or simply needed a second opinion from yet another doctor.

Next, there is a whole battery of documents to collect. Everything must be properly translated, stamped, notarized, etc. otherwise the whole batch becomes worthless and you must start again. My husband scurried around here and there to get everything in order, to figure out which office to go to, and to then spend hours in line before actually getting our documents in. And now we wait to see if we’re accepted. And this is just for pre-school!

I am sure that many of you can relate to this in one aspect of life or another. We come from a culture of convenience and when we bump up against things that are just not what we’re accustomed to in the way of efficiency and speed, it can be downright frustrating and just seem wrong!

I found myself being annoyed by the total waste of time in these procedures. My husband was having to take multiple hours away from ministry in order to fulfill these bureaucratic tasks and I was exhausted after waddling my largely pregnant self around with two pre-schoolers in tow for hours on end. It just felt like a waste.

But God reminded us of several things during this process. First, as Philippians 2:14 tells us, we are to “do all things without grumbling or disputing.” All things… even things that feel pointless! When I had failed at this one morning and had sent my husband a really whiny text message about being given the run around at the medical clinic yet again, he gently reminded me that not only are we commanded not to complain, but that doing so truly will do nothing to help us. So true! 

Secondly, we were reminded that all things that we are called to do, regardless of how seemingly pointless they appear, are part of the Lord’s will for us. If He is sovereign over all things, He certainly could save precious ministry hours by speeding up lines and giving us favor. But often in His better judgment, He chooses not to. We can do nothing about the inefficiencies that we have to face, and they are in fact useful and ordained by God! These trials can be used to refine us and grow us, we can have the opportunity to be salt and light (or the opposite!) in how we endure before others, and I am sure there are many other reasons that God sees the use in allowing us to “waste our time” in these ways.

Can you relate to this struggle in dealing with inefficiency? What is one inconvenience that you face that you are tempted to view as a waste, or where you are most tempted to complain?  Please also share some of the things that have helped you to endure with a godly attitude during such trials, or instances where you've seen inconvenience used to God's glory!


  1. So happy to see you writing again, Ashley! :-)

    I think it was just a year ago that the govt instituted some sort of emissions check - new law - had to be done by such and such date. of course, all expats, ngos, missos, etc. went and sat in the lines, paid the fees, acquired the required paperwork. and two days before the mandatory date arrived, they repealed the law. i almost expected a repeat of the whole situation again this year!

    i think i just try and see the humor in such situations and look for interesting people to meet in the process... and when i have that attitude, i usually do.

    1. Oh, I can hear you about the car inspections! They used to be so crazy here and would give my husband grief for months. (Thankfully our laws here have loosened up too). I'm so glad that you don't have to do them and even more that you could even find the humor despite jumping through so many seemingly unnecessary hoops! I love your point about finding the humor! In reality, so many of these situations truly are funny in hindsight, or like you said, better yet if in the moment!

      (And thanks for your sweet note about me writing again. I am glad to be getting back in the swing of things. I'm a bit/a lot rusty, but excited about taking up writing again from time to time!)

  2. When we were applying for residency, the inefficiency drove me crazy. I eventually had to just look at all that time of sitting in offices waiting as an opportunity to meet new people and practice the language. All that running around from one office to another and back again as a chance to learn the layout of the city a little better. And all of it as one way that I know a little more what a national deals with on a regular basis. I think I have a better understanding of why they tend to arrive late and do things at a much slower pace than I do, because they don't really expect things to happen in a timely fashion anyway.

    Now, I do tend to complain a bit about the "down time" I've had from medical complications, and feel quite inefficient myself. I try to see it as God slowing me down to get that one-on-one time, but even in that, I find myself measuring my time by my own scale--gotta redeem this time in bed by reading some number of chapters of the Bible and watching video classes that relate to ministry and putting in x minutes or hours in prayer. Hard to turn that little voice off inside that says I should be taking advantage of every second and "redeeming" the time, "being a good steward" etc. etc.

    1. It is so great that God has given you great understanding of the concept of time in your culture! What a blessing! I know that is a huge thing that differs between cultures, but wow, it is so hard (at least for me) not to just think our value of time is the right way.

      And I love your comments about needing to "redeem" time. I have bounced back and forth on that too. In some ways I do need to redeem some time, but in other ways sometimes I don't think God is asking us to fill every moment to the brim... I find the line a difficult one to figure out sometimes!

  3. My husband is really good at this. He just spent about a month working on renewing our residency. The lines and running around don't bother him. Somehow we're okay with that: the work and waiting involved in residency, visas, registration, etc.

    What was terribly hard for me was when I was pregnant the last time. I admit that I had a bad attitude quite often. I was tired, didn't see a reason for what I was doing (I had already managed three pregnancies completely on my own, and these doctors weren't helping me at all; it was just for the paperwork), and they were so often so unpleasant. (I don't like being yelled at!) I tried to look at them with compassion, though. I reminded myself of how overworked and underpaid they are. I'd tell myself that if I could manage to be pleasant with them, I might be the only one who doesn't fuss back at them in the whole day. Lots of pep talks like that. And then I usually came home and cried.

    1. I love how God helped you have compassion for the medical staff! It is so true. I love your heart to bless them, even at such a price!

  4. This is great! So true about getting home and just crying! Same things here in Montenegro, our visa was basically a part time job for 6 months, and simple tasks like preschool and car repairs take hours or days on end, feeling so 'unproductive'. So often we forget that God's fruit in our lives is PEACE, JOY and PATIENCE, not accomplished ministry objectives. I love what was said, these things are not taking time, but time GIVEN to us by our maker! What will we do with them?