You’re 17th in line at the traffic light. It’s red and eternally long. After an unbearable wait, it goes to green and nothing happens. The car ahead of you remains steadfast and unmoved. You wait some more. Nothing. After even more waiting, the car ahead of you inches forward. A quick glance in the rear view mirror reveals the car behind is stil stopped. You move forward and when you’re third in line at the traffic light, you realize it’s turned red again. Rats!
If all the drivers had reacted like you and all of the vehicles had started moving forward in perfect harmony when the light had turned green, you would have made it through, as well as several cars behind you. But, no, that didn’t happen. They guy behind you was very slow. Maybe the lady at the head of the line reacted perfectly and started moving right away. But not everybody responded the same way, and so now you’re stuck at the red light again.
Welcome to the Catenary effect. The Catenary effect is seen when you pull on a loose chain. The link in your hand moves with you, but the other ones take a while to get going because of the slack between them. Their response time is predictable, however. With drivers, however, it’s unpredictable, due to different spacing between vehicles, variable reaction times, and the different rates at which folks accelerate. So, while it seems like traffic should move quickly once the light turns green, it doesn’t because of the Catenary effect. And to add to the frustration, the longer the line up, the greater the delay.
You can also experience the Catenary effect on the highway, with no traffic lights at all. If you’ve ever come to a stop, only to move forward and eventually, miles down the road, get up to speed, without ever seeing a cause for the delay, no accident, construction or obstruction, you can thank the catenary effect. A single vehicle slowing down can cause a chain reaction of cars slowing down which might cause traffic miles away to come to a full stop.
It’s not just with traffic that you see this frustrating effect. You see it dealing with teams, committees, groups and people in general. Your church isn’t moving fast enough. God’s direction is clear but nothing seems to happen. Thank-you, Catenary Effect. Because we react in different ways and move at different speeds things don’t always happen right away. Sometimes we egg each other on and there’s rapid progress. Sometimes we just inch forward as we wait for everyone to get on board and get going.
That’s why God gave us the gift of patience. Things happen at their own pace, which is not necessarily our pace. And so we must wait at times. And at other times, others must wait for us. But when we pay attention and we’re alert to God’s Spirit, there will be progress. We will move forward, even if it’s in fits and starts and not nearly as fast as we would like it to be.