Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: Wait Until...

Many things happen to us that are unexpected, some of which are the consequence of our own action or inaction; some of which are for reasons beyond our understanding and some are completely beyond our control. We spend much time and effort dealing with the unexpected. Not all of it is bad, but all of it requires adjusting and rearranging our lives to accommodate what happened. The quality of our lives is dependent, not so much upon what happens to us, as upon how we respond to what happens.

It is easy to live in the hopeful expectation that some day, some way, we will get our lives so well adjusted and fine-tuned that no further adjustment or change will be needed. That is a pleasant thought, but an illusion. The one thing of which we may be certain is that in this transient existence we call life there will always be change. The only people who no longer face change are the dead, and even this is a supposition of the living.

We spend most of our lives waiting for the right time. The young say, "When I am old enough..". The college student says, "When I finish with my education...". We can find an abundant number of reasons for waiting. Wait until we have enough time, enough money or until we retire. the list of "wait until"s is endless. We wait for our lives to get into perfect adjustment. Get real!!

Though we cannot perfectly meet our challenges, to do nothing is seldom a virtue. There is a scene in the movie 'Mississippi Burning" in which FBI agents go to the home of a man who was thought to be a KKK sympathizer in order to question him. When they arrive they discover that he has hanged himself. Someone present said, "But he did not do anything". Another person present replied, "When he did nothing, he did something." This reminds me of a telling passage from Thomas Macaulay's "History of England" (Vol. 2, page 369). Macaulay's statement is about Sancroft, recently appointed first Minister of the Church and first peer of Parliament, who failed to show up to vote on a critical issue. Macaulay wrote, "His situation made it his clear duty to declare publically what he thought. -- It was probably from a nervous fear of doing wrong that, at this great juncture, he did nothing, but he should have known that, situated as he was, to do nothing was to do wrong".

General George McClellan was given charge of the Army of the Potomac at the beginning of the Civil War. He missed opportunity after opportunity to engage the Confederate forces. He kept waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike, but, of course, it never came. While McClellan was waiting for that one perfect moment the Union forces suffered many defeats and failed to weaken the Rebel forces. While the Confederates were "eating his lunch", McClellan explained that he needed to wait for more horses and mules and more training for his soldiers. Someone asked President Lincoln why McClellan did not move. Lincoln said, "He 's got the slows". The President sent word to McClellan: "If you are not going to use the army, I would like to borrow it". Finally Lincoln relieved General McClellan of command. Military experts think this terrible war was lengthened by months, if not years, by McClellan's failure to act.

All our battles are going to be fought without perfect weapons and without perfect armor to protect us or those we seek to defend. Everything we do in life will be done with some exposed flanks, faulty tools , discouraging circumstances, nay-sayers on the sidelines, inadequate funds, incomplete knowledge and understanding; and all of our efforts will be liberally seasoned with false hope and failure. If we are too ever experience any degree of fullfillmfent of purpose, we will have to stop "waiting until". When we wait until we are absolutely sure, we usually will have waited too long to make a difference. There has to come a time in which we "just do it". It may not be perfect. It may not turn out as we planned. We may fail. But life is almost always shorter than we think. We do not have time to just keep waiting.

How many painful battles have you prolonged by postponing the inevitable? How much hurt have you brought upon yourself and others because you were waiting for the perfect time to do what had to be done?

Two of the most dangerous words in life are "Wait until".