My lovely friend, Kelli at This Odd House, began a theme at her place. I shared her piece, and you may have read it. I’ve had time to gather my thoughts on waiting, and this is my contribution to the collective.
The world we live in relishes instant everything. American culture, in particular, moves at breakneck pace. We have instantaneous communication, fast food restaurants, and microwave ovens. It’s highlighted in our food, actually. Breakfast is nonexistent, grab-n-go, or drive-thru. Is there really time to pour cereal, walk to the refrigerator, and add milk? A cast iron skillet on the burner is a whole other arduous preparation. Our kitchen cabinets speak volumes. Boxed foods. Add water or less than four separate ingredients. Heat ‘n eat. Speed is of the essence!
And since I’m on the topic, we need two other ingredients in our lives: to be known…and to know. We want a strong circle of influence, and we want to know all about our world and the hurried events that will take place in it. Expectations factor in more than we might think, at this point. Too often, knowing has more to do with our previous experiences. It’s natural to surmise an outcome based on our observations and expectations, isn’t it? More “instant” floods our lives: the Internet, social media, and apps on smart devices of all kinds. If our own information isn’t enough to develop perspective, we borrow others’.
Contrast all of that with—
Nothing about waiting is instant. Plus, the delayed outcome is uncertain.
That’s when I decided waiting is like an ellipsis. Those three or four little ink dots on the page carry the heft of time delay. Simultaneously, ellipses waft with breezy, ethereal qualities as they fade into the unknown. They connect, but those tiny dots can feel like stepping stones just out of reach without a big, scary leap from one to the next.
Waiting is an ellipsis—or a string of ellipses, one right after the other.
My whole family sits together in a waiting room right now. My wonderful husband waits as patiently as he can for the right, God-given work to appear on the horizon. Two and a half months have passed since the transition period began. One thing about family: what affects one member nudges the others close by. He waits, and we wait.
How time passes in the waiting room relates to the ingredients I mentioned. Our attitude about the instant, being known, and knowing are key elements in waiting well.
Waiting well means embracing a basic, practical reality: there’s nothing instant about it. When we expect a long delay, we’re prepared. If it turns out to be short, that’s a lovely surprise, even a blessing. If it’s a long, drawn-out experience, our expectations more closely match reality, and the disappointment (while still there) is managed better, isn’t it? Somehow hope travels over more miles this way, in my experience.
We can build practical “waiting skills,” too. It makes sense to consider what to do with the time. What do people do while they wait? Some thumb-twiddle. Some are paralyzed. Others make good use of the time. If time is what you’ve got, embrace reality and make the best of it. I notice my husband, Tony, has spent significant time discovering more about his identity. Who he is as a follower of Christ comes first, but getting in touch with his talents and skills, preferences and priorities, interests and passions has made the wait productive. He has reaffirmed his relationship with God and rediscovered the way he’s wired. That has helped to make the waiting bearable.
Another important element in waiting is being known. One of the best parts of waiting with my husband during his transition has been the “with” part. When he describes the discovery of new things about his personal identity, it’s precious. I’ve enjoyed listening to Tony’s excitement when he receives important affirmation: his interests and passion lie squarely with his internal wiring. I feel his joy and smile. It’s a privilege to know my husband more intimately as he discovers the deeper things in his soul, the way he is hardwired. He has navigated this part of the waiting process well, and I can learn a few things from him.
Tony might say the best part of the waiting room is the extra chairs filled with family and friends next to him while he’s waiting. I know it’s mine. When a friend sits next to Tony, my whole family is encouraged by the support he receives. When someone sits next to me, I am thankful. Time passes better with good company. Some of the friendships developing in this waiting room have become the most precious we’ve known. Those walking this road with us are pure gold! (I hope they know that.)
Then there’s the knowing. The fight of our lives lands smack-dab in this arena. The best plans trail off into the unknown….
Sometimes the way is so dimly lit we proceed slowly, carefully, almost by Braille Method. Graciously, God allows “just enough light for the step we’re on,” and that’s where we learn to trust God (Stormie Omartian). If embracing reality is important at the start, it’s critical here. What we think we know, what we actually know, and what we choose to believe are essential. Truth is easily obscured in the observation-expectation fog. Unmet expectations can form crushing disappointments.
By nature, Tony is an optimist (I love that about him!). A lot of our friends are optimists, and they encouraged us. “It won’t be long,” they would say, “Everyone loves Tony, and someone will scoop him up immediately.” Hopeful perspective is contagious. (I know I hopped on the positive outlook bandwagon.Who wouldn’t?) We learned to define “immediately” differently.
My husband is wise and realistic in his faith-filled optimism. He knows his knowledge is tiny in comparison to All-knowing God. Tony also has an Accounting degree, and he accounted for things I didn’t. He knew the road to selecting work would be God-directed and travel through self-discovery.
Did I mention Tony is wise?
My husband was prepared for a longer wait and could make good use of the time because he was aware of the process ahead of him. Because he was willing to walk through the process with God, Tony has been able to wait well, even with the open-ended time frame stretching out into the unknown. He invited others into the waiting room with him, and that infused the time with precious friendship and wise counsel. I’m so proud of him! Others barged into the room and boldly asked to take a turn in the chair next to Tony and our family. I’m so proud of them!
And now that “broken bridge” of an ellipsis makes more sense to me than ever. Waiting is a faith-filled experience, if we infuse it that way. In the delay and the unknown, it’s little faith steps along the way that change us. (And that is God’s priority, isn’t it?) We learn where ultimate control lies. We also come to know the character of God in new ways. And, we just might find community to sustain us in weakness or need.
Interestingly, it also means I begin to look more compassionately at others’ lives punctuated with an ellipsis….
Thanks for reading along!
Questions to Think About:
What was your experience in the Waiting Room?
What did you find most helpful to you during that time? (Favorite spiritual and practical things?)
Who would you ask into your waiting period with you? Will you tend relationships for such a time as this?
Have you considered others you know who are in a time of waiting? How can you “sit in the chair next to them” while they wait?