The discipline to wait.
Waiting rooms are a metaphor of twenty-first century life gone wrong. Life on the exponential freeway is fast, complicated, and separated, everyone moving from or toward something in a hurry. The waiting rooms are slow, simple, and congested. The anxiety in them, however, is no less formidable than when we’re in a projectile flashing through rush hour traffic. In fact, worry and apprehension may actually weigh more in the waiting room. Here there is a group inertia that lays heavy on the occupants enduring the suspense. In this place the clocks move slower, the coffee lingers flat, everything happens in slow motion, and occasionally everyone in the room flinches in unison as the telephone rings or an announcement is made.
Nothing exposes the vagaries of human nature like the places where waiting happens. Airports, depots, office settings, long lines, doctors offices, and filled elevators ask us to do what may be our hardest personal discipline, waiting. It requires a disconnect from racing minds and the natural impulses of motion intrinsic in humans. Generally it is a forced obedience to circumstances, an interruption in a programmed itinerary, a pause in the schedule, an imposition to the do-do list. They're often ticks of dread, the clock marking anticipation of a diagnosis, fine, results, final grade, or punishment. In some cases the waiting predates some grand or glorious activity---the minutes before the wedding, the birth of a child, the pomp and circumstance of a diploma, a momentous announcement, or the fulfillment of a dream. Even then, waiting is a test because it requires endurance. Waiting may be the most trying lesson plan in learning endurance.
As mentioned many times in this space, most humans have a wait problem, a built-in impatience that relishes outcomes, the sooner the better. It's so evident out there on the mean streets right now, most of us trapped in Covid-19 isolation, stuck in a motionless cell. Watch social media and measure the restlessness. For me, the desire for movement is more than a product of our individual wiring. Sure, we are a diverse species---introverts and extroverts; positive types and negative; cool, calm and collected versus bundle of nerves; quiet and receptive as compared to loud and boisterous; and so many other personal comparatives. The guys over in the psych department will teach every personality type how to learn patience. Hallmark pretenses to the max.
My Christian worldview affirms patience as a fruit of the Spirit, that is, one of the nine prevailing evidences of living under the work of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5: 22-23). I'll go on record and confess that the fruit of patience is rather scant on my tree. Waiting is often hard for me. My impatience challenges my endurance. It usually happens when the discipline to wait is under-developed. Three spiritual truths strengthen my discipline to wait, truth that bolsters my weaknesses, offered here without comment---
1. God loves me and has a purpose for my life.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to
give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11, ESV
2. God is faithful in fulfilling his promises to me.
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:24, ESV
3. God is always working.
My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.
John 5: 17, NIV
When the fruit of patience grows thin because of difficult or challenging life realities, endurance is worn and feeble, causing me to throw up my hands in surrender. That's when I need the discipline to wait. Knowing that God has a plan for my life, is faithful in keeping his many promises to me, and that he is always working gives me the discipline to wait. And, waiting opens the door to endurance.
Yes, we learn the discipline to stay, and the discipline to wait.