We spend a lot of time waiting. It seems we are always waiting for something or other. We wait for more than one thing at a time, both minor and short-term, as well as major and long-term. We wait in line at the grocery store; we wait for grandchildren to be born; we wait for adult children to get their lives settled; we wait for retirement; we cannot help but wait for death, hopefully preparing for it as we move ever closer.
Our attitude in waiting determines our emotions during our waiting period. We can wait with hope or despair, with assurance or foreboding, with faith or doubt. Whatever our attitude toward what is coming, we must wait nonetheless. The greater our patience and trust, the longer we can wait with calmness.
It is usually better to wait with someone. I learned this not only in my own life, but during my years as a pastor. I have spent hundreds of hours with families waiting, waiting during surgery or waiting for the approaching death of a loved one. Conversations help, especially laced with gentle, good humor. Laughter breaks the tension of the “what ifs” and “could bes.” Just being together helps to spread the load or weight of waiting for significant results.
While waiting, time both speeds up and slows down. The sense of time while waiting often seems to be in an inverse relationship with what we desire: it slows down when we want it to speed up, and speeds up when we want it to slow down. Time really drags in a hospital waiting area, but moves all too rapidly as a loved one nears the end.
The Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore writes wonderfully about waiting with a bright attitude of awe and anticipation. He has learned to enjoy the process of waiting, being fully open to the beauty of now as he awaits the glory of then:
“This is my delight, thus to wait and watch at the wayside where shadow chases light and the rain comes in the wake of the summer.
“Messengers, with tidings from unknown skies, greet me and speed along the road. My heart is glad within, and the breath of the passing breeze is sweet.
“From dawn till dusk I sit here before my door, and I know that of a sudden the happy moment will arrive when I shall see.
“In the meanwhile I smile and I sing all alone. In the meanwhile the air is filling with the perfume of promise.”
We are born and wait to grow up; we grow up and wait to grow old; we grow old and wait to die, hopefully to awaken in some heaven and perhaps find out what this whole wondrous process was, and is, all about. Surely more awaits us, and it will entail more waiting. Could we learn the positive power of “delayed gratification,” in our have-it-all-now via credit card consumer mentality, we might awaken to the wonders passing us by now, as we sit before our doors, waiting for whatever.
Could you but keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of life, you would transform your waiting into being, your anticipating into appreciating. If you could let the air around you fill with the perfume of promise, you would indeed smile and sing.