5 Ways to Wait Well
On Saturday I had the privilege of speaking to the wonderful women of New Life Community Church in Portage Park. I shared a part of my story from “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down.” Then I recounted the story of Mary and Martha from John chapter 11–the story of what must have been both the worst and the best week of their lives.
I’ve written about John 11 here and here. It’s a favorite passage of mine. And the first point that I highlight from this narrative any time I get to talk about it is this: “Jesus hears, but He does not hurry.”
And—bam!—there it is. That theme of waiting yet again.
If you visited This Odd House last fall, you know that we spent considerable time looking around the waiting room. Several of my friends wrote about their experiences and what God showed them there. And I shared a few waiting-related pieces of my own.
But on Saturday afternoon, during a follow-up Q&A, one of the women asked a question that I don’t think we have thoroughly answered yet. She wanted to know: What does “waiting well” look like? Practically speaking, what should I do?
So I thought it might be good to return to our conversation on waiting this week to address that how-to piece. Here are a few of my ideas, a few things that have helped me. Please, feel free to share your own below.
Look around. When we are in the waiting room, we tend to fix our eyes on the exit sign. We keep listening for our name to be called, so we can get out of there and move on to what really matters. We long so much for a future ideal that we forget to value and fully engage with our present reality—the floor right beneath our feet. But we can’t live in the future—or the past, for that matter. We can only live today. This moment. So we would do well—even as we wait—to open our eyes to what is right in front of us. We would do well to love the people just across the room, to appreciate the view such-as-it-is, and to give ourselves fully to whatever God has given us to do right now.
Get ready. The waiting room is often a place of preparation. It need not be a stagnant space. In fact, it can be the sight of great growth. A greenhouse of sorts—if you’ll pardon the mixing of the metaphors. It can be an opportunity to deepen our roots before we are called upon to spread our limbs and produce new fruit. Or maybe it’s more like a weight room—a place to build up our muscle mass before the big game. Regardless of which image holds appeal, we must make full use of the time. We must train thoroughly. That might mean going to to school. Taking a class. Reading good books. Sharpening our skills. Cultivating our character. Finding a mentor. Gaining experience. Volunteering our time. Refining our relational skills. Meeting with a counselor. Building a network. Assembling resources. Setting some goals. Making a plan and following through and practicing prayer. So when the time comes, when we are called to the next thing, we are all ready to go.
Find the fun. Life in the waiting room can be drab and difficult. The walls are grey. The chairs, uncomfortable. The magazines are outdated, and who actually reads Golf Digest anyhow? But we’ve heard that “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.” And though it sounds cliché, we find that it rings true. So rather than resigning ourselves to the sadness and discouragement, rather than assuming we will only be happy when we bust out of this place, we can seek joy right in the midst. While Peter and I were waiting many years to be parents, we found fun in regular weekend getaways to nearby B&Bs. We hosted frequent dinner parties and took spontaneous movie dates and trained for a marathon because we had the time and the energy, and we knew that both would likely one day wane.
Foster hope. It’s easy for hope to fade when the wait drags on—when we hear everyone else’s name called but ours, when we begin to wonder if the receptionist even remembers that we’re sitting out here, playing Panda Pop on our phone. Truthfully, some of us eventually find that it’s easier not to hope at all, so we stuff our dreams into the bottom of our bag and try to forget that they exist at all. Maybe that’s because the object of our “hope” is our own desires. We hope in this sense: “I hope I get what I want.” And truthfully, this sort of hope is fragile. This sort of hope will surge and recede with every shift of the wind. There are no guarantees. Yet, still, we ought to believe. We ought to hope. It’s the object of our hope that ought to change. Our hope must be placed in something certain and sure. That is, God Himself. His character. His presence. His glory. And our eternal destiny as His children.
Draw close. When we feel stuck in the waiting room—and the days turn into months and the months turn into years—we may imagine that God is off somewhere behind closed doors, giving all of His time and attention to someone else. However, He not only created the waiting room, He inhabits it. It is actually the location of some of His most profound work. Jerome Daily calls our times of waiting an “Invitation to Intimacy.” So let’s accept that invitation. Let’s answer that call. Let’s climb up next to Him, lean in, and listen carefully for whatever He wants to whisper in our ear.