The Upside of Waiting

dog treat on noseThese past few months have been marked by my daughter waiting to hear back from colleges she applied to. I’ve been impressed by her calm patience.

Her mom and I not so much.

The other day a letter from her top school came in the mail while she was out of town at a youth conference. Did I set it aside, knowing that it would be better to wait for her to come home and for us to experience the news together?

Of course not.

I sat a teakettle filled with water on the stove and cranked the gas burner up on high so we could (a) steam-open the seal (b) read the letter, and then (c) super-glue it shut before she came home, just like Jesus would if he were in our shoes.

Fortunately my wife beat me to the punch. Holding the envelope up to the ceiling light, she yelled out, “Wait. False alarm. It’s another marketing piece for the school.”

My wife’s lack of patience is embarrassing.

It seems that we spend a great deal of our lives waiting.

For the doctor.

For the remote.

For tax return checks.

For the people in front of us in the grocery store check out line.

For God.

When the Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff immigrated to the United States, he said that the thing he loved most about America were the grocery stores.

He remarked,

I’ll never forget walking down one of the aisles and seeing powdered milk; just add water and you get milk. Right next to it was powdered orange juice; just add water and you get orange juice. Then I saw baby powder, and I thought to myself, What a country!

Oftentimes I forget that God isn’t an American, or in the instant food business.

Thank goodness, for it seems that God does his best work in my life when I’m seemingly stuck in limbo:

  • Waiting teaches me to slow down and enjoy the life that God has given me, not blindly rush from one task on my to-do list to the next.
  • Waiting teaches me to empathize with the plight of those who are forced to “live slowly” – those with physical limitations like those in nursing homes, in care facilities, in hospitals, and the like.
  • And ultimately, waiting teaches me to be a calmer, gentler person.

Henri Nouwen wrote,

A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.

Oddly enough, the irony of waiting is that that “something hidden” which comes as a result is always infinitely better than that thing we’re rushing to discover.

Brian loves helping Christians live thoughtful, courageous lives. He's a popular blogger, author, and pastor at Christ's Church of the Valley in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

  • Sean

    Well said.