A waiting room is some kind of portal into another world. Nothing actually happens in a waiting room. It’s just a space between one place and the next; a kind of patient purgatory, and all who enter a waiting room must surrender to an overwhelming pall of powerlessness. We spend a lot more time in waiting than we would like, both in and out of rooms officially designated for the past-time. But we don’t like waiting.
I’m waiting for my first book to come out. Oh, it’s written—I started work on it four years ago. And the idea has been sent to publishers—that began two years ago. And yes, one of them showed interest, about a year later. I even have a contract, signed last year. The manuscript’s actually finished now—I eagerly sent it in earlier this year. So I thought the wait was over. But there’s been some kind of unforeseen delay and so now I’m waiting for it to go to press. My friends remind me that I should be glad to be having it published at all and I am. However, I feel like I’ve poured out my soul into a drawer where it’s just collecting dust. My publisher has explained the situation and expressed his regret for the wait and I fully understand. I’m not angry, but I am still anticipating. Every time my computer makes its cheerful, little email “bleep,” I run to see if today is the day I hear it’s my turn. Point is, whether we’re waiting for something good to come or something bad to leave, waiting isn’t much fun.
I’ve been trying to put it out of my mind so that the time goes quickly, but I’ve been forced to contemplate the spiritual discipline of waiting. And this week it seems that waiting is all around me. In the last seven days I’ve spoken to three friends who are all living in anticipation in one way or another.
My good friend, Elizabeth, is a talented musician. Five years ago, she lost an amazing recording opportunity and went back to the music store where she worked in college. She’s been working there ever since, wondering if she’ll ever be paid to do what she loves.
And then there’s Michael. He thought he’d found his wife. He and Hannah had discussed the idea of marriage many times and it seemed that at last the timing was right. And then Hannah’s father died tragically and she was plunged into depression. The trauma brought together several unresolved issues in her life and suddenly she had doubts. So this week, Michael found himself in a conversation he never expected. He never thought he’d hear words from her like: “It’s not because I don’t care for you” and “I don’t know when I’ll be ready for a relationship again.” Suddenly Michael is in an in-between place, continuing in close relationship with his grieving fiancé-turned-friend, but still left without the wife he almost had, not sure if he should give up hope or wait for her to come back when she’s ready.
And Sarah didn’t even intend to share her story. She dropped by to check out the house for rent next door to mine. I had mentioned it to her when we met at church and she thought it might be just what she needed. As we walked through the yard, peeking through windows, she shared how she now found herself almost 50 and still renting. The story included single parenthood, financial struggles and dreams to finish her master’s degree— and it all ended with more waiting.
All this waiting! We all have to endure it. God must have a special use for it in our lives. There must be some lesson He wants us to draw from it. But what is it?
Was it coincidence that my daughter chose this week to pull Dr Seuss’, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! from her bookshelf? She begged me to read it to her and I think I did. I found myself so captivated by the good Doctor’s insight that it slipped my mind that I was supposed to be reading a bedtime story …
You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place …
for people just waiting.
waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting …
NO! That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
Where Boom Bands are playing.
But, I reasoned with Dr Seuss, How can I just escape all that waiting and staying? It’s not my fault my book isn’t printed, it’s not Elizabeth’s fault she can’t find meaningful work or Michael’s fault that Hannah’s Dad died and Sarah certainly can’t do anything to suddenly fix her finances. How can we just escape this waiting? Oh well, I guess it is just a children’s book after all. I’m really asking too much of it.
However, the question stayed with me. I know in theory that waiting isn’t healthy or productive, but when I’m placed in a situation over which I have no control, how can I do anything but wait? And then I finally took the question to the One who had the answer.
I don’t expect life to be perfect, Lord. I don’t want to feel like a victim. But when I’m powerless to change my circumstances, how can I help but wait?
And I finally seemed to get a hint of God’s thinking in all of this. Perhaps He doesn’t make us wait. Perhaps “we” do. It’s only our desire for something else that makes us feel we’re waiting. Maybe we can escape all of this waiting and staying, not by changing our situation, but by changing our state of mind. Because if we have no control over the place in which we find ourselves, isn’t it possible that we’re exactly where He wants us? So maybe the real waiting isn’t ours. Maybe the real waiting is God’s, as He longs for us to see His hand in our life and find the lesson, even the blessing, in what it holds.