“Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object we are waiting for.” Charles Stanley
We spend a fair amount of our lives waiting. We wait to see the doctor, to be seated at a restaurant, or to do our banking. We wait to be old enough to work, to drive and to vote. We wait for the big game to start, for the release of the much-anticipated movie or for the curtain to go up. We wait for the baby to arrive and the pizza to be delivered. Or is it the other way around?
We wait a lot. Waiting for the next event, the newest update or the end of one thing so we can begin another. We wait for a new job to open up, for the mortgage to be paid off, for the arrival of family or for vacation days to begin.
Figure skaters who competed in the team event at the 2022 Olympics are still waiting to get their medals, pending an investigation that continues into doping violations. A hearing is scheduled for this month but it remains unclear if it will end the waiting for the athletes.
I recall waiting in line for a show at Disneyland. With a certain number of seats in the theatre, the line-up was cut off at the family in front of us. As the Disney cast member closed the queue he announced they would begin seating the next group in 14 minutes. A dissatisfied father in front of us maneuvered his family out of line and declared they weren't going to wait that long. I guess he had yet to discover that 14 minutes was definitely going to be one of the shorter waits of their day.
We wait in offices, airports and check-out lines. Many places have waiting rooms--spaces dedicated to just one thing-- the activity of waiting. Yes, it is safe to assume we have spent major chunks of our lives waiting in line or waiting for something specific to take place.
I can't say I like to wait more than anybody else does, but this summer there was a point at which I realized what a gift waiting might be.
A lounge on the 5th floor of a hospital where I spent time waiting is quite the hub of activity at any given moment. Emergency surgery for my husband, followed by unexpected surgery for my mom put me on the floor for much of the summer. At any given moment there were circles of family or friends in conversation, patients pushing IV poles as they took short walks, and sometimes hospital programming that provided opportunities for art or music. But there was something else, too…people huddled around different tables working on jigsaw puzzles.
A cupboard of puzzles gave visitors several options to choose from and there were often two or three on the go. Whoever wished to, could pull up a chair and search for a few pieces. It was always fun to check back to see the progress on the ones we started.
I enjoy doing puzzles. There's something relaxing about sitting quietly, studying the pieces and feeling a sense of accomplishment as the whole thing comes together. But what I found the most gratifying was entering into conversations with others who, like us, were waiting. Waiting for their loved one to return from tests, or to wake from a nap, or to get some sort of update.
A conversation that began with talking about a puzzle could easily morph into questions about what we were all facing as families in a waiting room. As days rolled by we found it easy to check in on each other and that simple act brought a sense of community and comfort to a group of people who were otherwise strangers. None of that would have happened if we hadn't spent time waiting.
As we wait, we are being offered time. Time to spend in thought to develop a necessary perspective. Time for prayer asking to be granted strength to face what is coming. Time devoted to conversation with the person next to us who may just be waiting for someone to listen.
If we are waiting in line at the grocery store it means there is enough food for all. If we are waiting in line at the bank it's because we have access to money. If we are waiting in a line-up of cars to pick up kids at the end of the school day it is because they are getting an education. And of course, if we are waiting in a hospital it is because we, or a loved one, is receiving care. Aren't all of these good reasons to wait?
We can guard against impatience when we think about what's led up to us being in that moment in the first place. Because more than likely…it's worth waiting for. That's my outlook.