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Waiting In Line
July 26, 2016

In a New York Times article, journalist Alex Stone tells the story of how executives at a Houston airport faced and then solved a cascade of passenger complaints about long waits at the baggage claim.[1] They first decided to hire more baggage handlers, reducing wait times to an industry-beating average of eight minutes. But complaints persisted. This made no sense to the executives until they discovered that, on the average, passengers took just one minute to walk to baggage claim, resulting in a hurry-up-and-wait situation. The walk time was not a problem; the remaining seven empty minutes of staring at the baggage carousel was. So, in a burst of innovation, the executives moved the arrival gates farther away from the baggage claim area. Passengers now had to walk much farther but their bags were often waiting for them when they arrived. Problem solved. The complaints dropped.

 For the same article Stone interviewed MIT operations researcher Richard Larson, the world's leading expert on waiting in lines to discover the psychology behind our waiting. What happened at the Houston airport makes for a perfect illustration. According to Larson, the length of our wait is not as important as what we're doing while we wait. "Often the psychology of queuing is more important than the statistics of the wait itself," says Larson. Essentially, we tolerate "occupied time" (for example, walking to baggage claim) far better than "unoccupied time" (such as standing at the baggage carousel). Give us something to do while we wait, and the wait becomes endurable.

 In Galatians 5:22, 23 Paul writes about Fruit of the Spirit, the virtues that the Holy Spirit develops in followers.  One of the pieces of fruit is patience.  On a scale of 1 -10, how would you rate your patience?  How would your best friends rate your patience?  How well do you do standing in line.  In the Bible we have many examples of God’s patience with people; complaining Israelites, sinful kings and even the apostle Paul considered himself to be the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

How is the fruit of patience developed in followers?  How can you fill your wait times with meaningful activities?  Instead of complaining about the line or wait in the doctor’s office, fill the time with listing the good things you experience in life?  Rather than becoming impatient with other drivers, store clerks, mechanics etc., fill the time with thinking about all the great people you know.  Fill your time by connecting with God in prayer or reading His word.  Fill your time by connecting with God in prayer, reading His word, memorizing verses, trusting that God will provide deliverance from all struggles.  What are some other things that you can do to fill in time to avoid impatience so you may develop patience?


[1] Rick Lawrence, Skin in the Game (Kregel Publishers, 2015), pages 105-107


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