For some reason the word “wait” has been cropping up and standing out like a light bulb in a dark room. Why should such an insignificant word suddenly have significance? That is what I’ve been trying to figure out for the last couple of weeks.
In scripture the word ‘waiting’ has two different connotations. The first of course is “waiting on the Lord” and the second, more sinister one, is to lie in wait to commit some act of violence or evil deed. Which one is meant for me this time? As I looked at how the word “wait” is used in both Hebrew and Christian Scripture I did notice a difference. In Hebrew scripture it seems to be relatively equally split between the two uses while in Christian Scriptures it leans more heavily towards the positive use of waiting on G-d and Christ. Waiting has such weight to it (pun intended) and I started writing the same old platitudes we always write at this time of year but I think today I need to be honest.
I have spent a lifetime waiting for something. I would hate to add up all of the time spent waiting for I’m sure it would be way more than the time spent living my life. I dislike waiting; I want things to happen NOW, not wait for them. I don’t want to wait for Christmas to come, although I don’t mind waiting for presents because I rarely get anything I want or need. I don’t want to wait for this quarters grades, I want to know NOW, not that I would do anything particular with them, I just want to know. I am getting tired of waiting for G-d to explain what she wants me to do. I am after all 63 and there just aren’t that many more years to do what she wants. So if you don’t mind G-d, please tell me plainly so I can finally quit guessing and wasting your time and mine, sheesh.
Of course everyone has to wait, Moses had to wait for G-d to give him the stone tablets (Exodus 24:12), the Israelites had to wait for Moses to hear from God (Numbers 9:8). The women disciples had to wait for the Sabbath to be over before they could anoint the body of Jesus (Luke 23:56) and all of the disciples had to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). So maybe waiting isn’t such a bad thing. Good things do happen, most of the time anyway. I am reminded of the little story of an elderly woman who was planning her own funeral. She told the undertaker to make sure she had a spoon in her hand when she was put in her coffin. The puzzled undertaker asked “why?” And, she told him that when dinner was finished her mother always said, “Hold on to your spoon, there are good things coming.” She just knew there were more good things coming.
However, all too often in my life waiting has meant not good things coming but hard times and struggles. I waited at my father’s bedside for him to die from cancer. I waited in a hospital waiting room to hear that my mother had died on the operating table. After being laid off I’ve waited for someone to hire me, sometimes that was a long time coming and I’ve waited for others to do what they promised and waited in vain. Disappointment is part of living, for it is in those hard moments of my life that I learn to appreciate the good ones. I know that, or at least intellectually I do, but it is always hard at the time I experience it and I always think the worst. My life hasn’t been all roses and watercolors, I don’t think anyone’s life is, but this is my life and it’s the only one I really know so of course it is the most important to me.
Maybe that’s the point of hearing and seeing “wait” so often. Maybe I’m to stop looking at my life and let other lives into mine. Maybe all that waiting has been because I’ve isolated myself from those that would expand my being. I’ve been stuck in my own culture and own thoughts for too long and now my waiting is not to wait on the Lord but to wait for others to bring the Lord to me, or, at least show me the way. Maybe I am in some ways handicapped by my own shortsightedness and unwillingness to extend my life into new places.
This quarter I have been volunteering at the Chief Seattle Club and I must admit it’s been in the last 10 weeks that I’ve found the word “wait” sticking out at me. I am wondering if the connection is my amazement at how so many of the members have wormed their way into my life. I am finding just how important the concerns of staff and members are becoming to me and I don’t mind. I am feeling the pain of an elder who was injured due to the thoughtlessness of some young kids and joyful at the aid he received from strangers. I am angry at the pain First Nations Peoples have experienced because of others who think only they are “right.” I am learning that each culture that makes up the human race is important to the whole and any culture that is denied their dignity harms us all. I am learning that when I “wait” to act with compassion then someone will be harmed. I am learning that someone one is actually waiting for me is the person I’m supposed to be. I am not to use my time waiting as an excuse to do nothing, I am to prepare for tomorrow or the next minute, I don’t know which.
So while my days of waiting may not be over, they are taking on a new significance. Instead of waiting for someone else to come to me, I must go ask what is needed. Waiting time must become preparation time to follow the path that opens up for me. So I’m exchanging preparation, prepare, preparing for the wait and waiting, for that is what it should be.
Jesus told his disciples to wait on G-d’s promise but he didn’t tell them to sit still. They still had a mission to accomplish and while they didn’t know what G-d’s promise would be they had a job to do. This is just me but, I think when the angels asked the disciples at the ascension why they were standing there looking at the sky they were really saying “quit wasting time, you’ve got a job to do, go get ready.”
© Ruth Jewell, December 8, 2010