sometimes, actually all the time, my daughter tells me to wait. she holds her hand out, palm facing me, as she pauses while trying to put on her pants. “wait, mama. just wait.” sometimes we are in a rush and i have to put them on for her, while she screams in protest, her independence ripped from her little hands. it seems everything is a little more dramatic when you are two 🙂
you may have guessed that i’m not what you would consider a patient person. maybe you aren’t either. not only do i dislike waiting, but i like everything to be done fast. i like listening to fast talking speakers and when people speak slowly, i have a hard time paying attention. i rush my kids when they don’t need to be rushed and i rush in doing tasks that would benefit from a little more attention. usually spilling my coffee on my checkbook or stubbing my toe for the 1000th time is a clear sign to me that i need to slow down, but sometimes i just keep on rushing.
so the word “wait” is not something that feels good to me. sometimes it feels like i am being put off, being made to put on hold something that i deserve now. sometimes it feels like i am doing nothing at all and that idle time feels like a waste. funny how my dislike of waiting shows my entitlement and the way i hoard my time.
brennan manning spoke of waiting in a way i had never heard before– and forgive me, but i lent the book out and can’t find the direct quote anywhere online, so this is purely by memory. he said that waiting was not doing nothing, but it was letting your soul grow up. that resounded with me deeply– to me, waiting always equaled doing nothing. it’s why i’m always 15 minutes late to everything– i’d rather get a few more things done at home than get there early and wait. yes, i know, faulty to the core, but that’s truly how i viewed waiting.
so if waiting is letting your soul grow up, then apparently i am still a child, because i’ve gone through life doing whatever i could to avoid waiting of any sort unless absolutely necessary. there are two types of waiting in life…the first a simple waiting, like when you are waiting for a doctor’s appointment or waiting for your child to gather up their things after school which may or may not feel like the longest 10 minutes ever…this type of waiting has an immediate end in sight, so it’s even more shocking to me when i realize my impatience in times like these. like a toddler who impatiently stomps his feet when they are waiting for their turn on the slide, instead of stomping my feet i have filled my waiting time to the brim with distractions, feeding the lie that i must be doing something at all times. i text and email and browse online while in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. we call it multitasking, but sometimes it is just a way to prevent impatience. instead of growing in patience i am just avoiding the feeling of impatience. i’m actually thankful for all the little things that make me wait several times a day. it is always an opportunity to practice patience and graciousness in frustrating situations and without these, the second type of waiting would be near impossible.
the second type of waiting is open ended– waiting for a call back for a desperately needed job, waiting for a tax return check to come so you can fix your barely hanging on car, waiting for lab results when your biggest fear is cancer. it’s the kind that may or may not come, and you might wait a day or a month or a year or maybe even years and years just to hear an answer that you weren’t expecting. waiting in these situations can make you feel hopeless, like God has left the room and isn’t coming back anytime soon. the silence when you cry out to God and there’s seemingly no answer, the closed doors in business matters, the college rejection letters one after another, the estranged spouse’s refusal to work things out– they etch deep lines of pain in our hearts and it is all too tempting to throw in the towel and say forget it, i’m done waiting, i’ll take another path. in these times i find myself not only distracting myself from the waiting, but actually trying to take action to make things happen on my own. this is way more damaging because once i start to take action on my own, i run the risk of taking credit for the answer (if it’s a good answer) as well as possibly doing things that not only affect my own situation but others as well. it takes all the weight off of what God will do and puts it back on me so i can at least retain control…and it never goes well. in the quiet of the day, if i will stop and let God speak without trying to persuade Him that i know best, i MUST trust that His answer will come and that i will know it is what i’ve been waiting for.
what awesome hope we have, that the promises of God are tried and true for His people. as God enlarges our capacity for waiting in the small things, we can sit and be still, even for 30 seconds, without or phones or tv or books even. we can just BE in the moment, knowing that while we are seemingly doing nothing, we can see it as our souls growing up, and that there is nothing we can do to speed up or slow down time. in every second that passes when there is a crucial answer waiting on the wings, i can know that God is at work making a masterpiece that i cannot fully understand, and my piece may or may not end up looking how i want. but i trust the Creator of time and space to answer when He chooses.
“they who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” -isaiah 40:31