Learning to Wait Well

olive chan —  December 1, 2011 — Leave a comment

The first thing I said to Tim this morning was “I’m done waiting.  I’m going to go about my day however I want and this baby can come whenever.”  It’s not entirely true, of course, because as long as this belly is about to burst, I’ll still be waiting.  But I certainly do not want to live today in the same fevered pitch of anticipation that we lived in yesterday.  You see, yesterday, we were so excited and hopeful that we had packed all our bags (PJs and all), only to make it to the end of the day completely exhausted and have to unpack some things to settle in for the night.  The upside, I suppose, was that we both had really good sleeps.

Waiting

It led me to think though, how do we wait well?  Is it possible to wait and be content at the same time?  By nature, waiting requires that there is something we desire but have yet to possess.  Can a person be content with having and being aware of the desire without possessing whatever it is he/she is longing for?  And is waiting different if you know something is coming versus if you’re uncertain if it’s coming?  (For example, when we were trying to conceive, we were waiting, but we did not know if we’d be able to have a child.  This time around, we’re waiting, but we know that this baby will be born sooner or later.)

A couple thoughts that are helping me through this particular time of waiting are:

  1. Waiting as a form of prayer.  The idea of this was suggested by my spiritual director earlier this year when we were waiting to get pregnant.  She suggested that the act of waiting can be a form of relating to God.  Thinking about waiting in this way has helped me feel less hurried about the whole process and to trust His timing.  (The painting at the top of this post is inspired by this idea.)
  2. “Waiting does not diminish us.” From this passage from Romans 8:18-28 (The Message translation).

That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

It seems to me that part of waiting well is to accept what is out of our control; to surrender our desire for things to work out in our time.  It frees us to carry on with our lives, to be thankful for what we do have and to continue expecting joyfully.

What are your thoughts on waiting?  What helps you to wait well?