Waiting

16 Oct

Waiting

How much our lives do we spend just waiting? On the highway, in a traffic jam; waiting to see the doctor or for a report on our latest examination; waiting to be picked up or for a bus or taxi to take us where we want to go; standing in line to check out our groceries or to buy our stamps in the post office; fidgeting until we are served in a restaurant—everyone can add to this list.

Most often, we simply consider waiting to be down time, time that is wasted when we could be doing something more useful or more enjoyable. The other day, after what seemed to be an interminable time of waiting, I asked myself whether I could offer a more useful view.

Several conclusions came to mind—I call them a “reflective approach to waiting” or even a “spirituality of waiting.”

First of all, waiting reveals to me that my life is a network of dependencies. I am not fully in control of my life, because I am a dependent person—on other drivers on the highway, on the doctor, on the bus driver and the grocery clerk and the waitstaff. I’m not the self-reliant “Marlboro Man.” I live in relationships, and I’m dependent on a network of other people. 

Waiting tells me that my life is not a static thing, but rather a dynamic process. I am on a journey to someplace else, to a new situation. Every waiting is a transition. As a buffer between our past and our future, waiting is actually a blessing—even though we may not recognize this in the moment. But at those times when change comes instantaneously, without a buffer space, we are often traumatized by the sudden transition.

In the waiting period, we can sort out the possibilities,  both the positive and the negative, and imagine our alternative futures.

In other words, there is a lot more to waiting than “down time.” In fact, an entire world of meaning is embedded there—and that is my spirituality of waiting.

(c) Phil Hefner     16 October 

One Response to “Waiting”

  1. Liftthescreen October 16, 2019 at 11:37 pm #

    Hi Phil,

    When I was parish pastor in Victoria, Texas, I had visited an elderly woman in the hospital. She asked me, “Pastor, if I am ready to die, “Why doesn’t God let me die? We talked about waiting, about God’s time and praying while we wait. About a month later I came to visit her, not knowing that she had died in the night. When I came to her room they were removing her pictures from the wall by her bed. One of the nurses told me she had died. As I turned to leave, an African America nurse came up to me and asked, “Are you her pastor?” I said that I was. She said, “Well I just want you to know that I have been stressed with problems, and I was almost ready to quit being a nurse, and give it all up. But she was so nice to me, and listened to my problems and troubles that she encouraged me to wait it out and stay as a nurse.”

    I have told congregations since then and asked, “If you were sick and ready to die, but Jesus came and asked you if you would be willing to suffer the pain for just a few more weeks in order to help a nurse who was at the end of her rope and really needed a friend to listen to her, would any of you say, “No! Jesus, it’s not my problem.” So even at the last, even in pain, Jesus may have one more thing for you to do.

    JOE WOLD

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