‘Tis the season of waiting.
Waiting for marshmallows
“This situation is like the marshmallow experiment,” I said to my brother-in-law. He’d asked if I wanted something to eat or drink—there were some yummy-looking hors d’oeuvres set out. But Thanksgiving dinner was only a couple of hours away.
Since my brother-in-law looked puzzled about the reference, I explained. “The marshmallow experiment was a study where children were offered a choice between one marshmallow now or two after waiting a few minutes.” In follow-up studies, the children who were able to wait tended to have better rates of success: SAT scores, educational attainment, health, among others.
I grinned. “Because I’m anticipating a sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner and want to fully enjoy the feast—the two marshmallows instead of one—I’ll wait.”
All through our Thanksgiving visit, I noted how common those instances of delayed gratification are—one marshmallow now versus wait for two later. But after looking up the study, I discovered more recent studies cast doubts on the original experiment’s conclusions. Also, rather than anticipate the promised marshmallows, the children who waited distracted themselves so they wouldn’t think about or look at the reward.
I confess to using the same strategy with the dips and chips, crackers and cheese, olives and pickles and my favorite: celery stuffed with cream cheese. Out of sight, out of mind.
Waiting for rewards
“Freya, Cato, are you ready?” Keith asked our dogs. He praised them when he sat and she stood to attention. At thirteen, sitting is hard for dear Freya, but Cato puppy needs the training. “Look at me and wait!” Keith offered further praise while putting our mostly empty dinner plates on the floor in front of them. Despite drool puddling the floor, the dogs waited for Keith’s hand signal and command: “Ok, have some.”
Cato had waited on his nest bed as we ate, and Freya on the floor nearby. With good training, they understand that all food comes from us, their pack leaders. And while alert and attentive and drooling in anticipation, they remain calm and submissive. There is comfort in ritual, routine, rules, and rewards for the wait.
For all of us. Because in time, God’s promises always come to fruition.
Waiting for Christmas
Yesterday, we celebrated the first Sunday in Advent, a time of waiting, anticipating, longing, remembering the first arrival and preparing for the coming blessing, the second arrival. Bringing Blessing, our theme for Advent. We are blessed so we will be a blessing to others.
These are not soft marshmallow promises or mostly empty dinner plates but the advent of a robust and Mighty God who calls us out of our distractions, saying, “Look to Me.”
And wait. Calmly, attentively, humbly and hopefully without drooling.
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