Most of us don’t like to wait. We grow impatient waiting for the traffic light to change, the coffee to brew, the water to boil for the pasta. We glance at our watches as we stand in the checkout line, sit in a doctor’s office, or wait for an elderly person to get to the point of her long and convoluted story.
Why is waiting so hard for us? For one thing, we are busy people. Demands come at us from all sides—from family, friends, work, church. All the time-saving devices we’ve invented and use every day don’t seem to save us any time. Or if they do, we just cram more and more activities and projects into the time that we have. As a writer, for example, I know the computer has made my writing immensely easier. When I recall the electric-typewriter-and-carbon-paper days, I wonder how I ever produced anything. But because of the convenience of the computer I sometimes put greater demands upon myself to produce more and more!
Our busyness has given rise to a rather new phenomenon known as multitasking. I personally wish the word had never been invented. Multitasking means instead of focusing on doing one thing at a time, we are expected to do two, three, or even more things all at once. When I pick up my order from a fast food place, for example, I notice the person at the window is talking. But she is not talking to me. She’s taking the order of the person three cars behind me! And while she’s taking their order, she’s getting my drink, making my change, and handing me my food—all at the same time!
But another reason we have a hard time with waiting goes deeper than our busyness. When we wait we are not in control. Whatever we are waiting for is out of our hands, whether we’re waiting for a letter to come, a baby to be born, an illness to pass, spring to arrive, or even a loved one to die. At such times we know we are at the mercy of factors that are beyond our control. And that can be hard for us. Maybe that’s why Richard Rohr wrote, “Suffering is when you are not in control.”
But I believe this is precisely why waiting can be good for us and our spiritual life. It reminds us that despite our science, technology, medicine, creativity, and intelligence we must at times yield to forces that are greater than we are. At times we must let go of our incessant need to do—and just sit and wait. We Christians have an advantage in this regard, for we believe ultimately our lives are not in the hands of blind or malevolent forces, but in the hands of a God who loves us more than we can imagine.
So the next time you’re waiting for something, tell yourself, “Okay, I’m not in control.” Then smile and say to yourself, “But I know ultimately Who is!”
Do you find it hard to wait? Why?