When Waiting Is Quiet
I’m sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, magazine in hand. The room is filled with people, but they’re unnaturally quiet—so quiet I can hear the clock on the wall marking lost time…all the wasted life I’ll never get back because I spent it breathing stale air in this crowded room.
I flip a page and stifle a snort: another celebrity has lost all her pregnancy weight in three days, and if I’ll only hire myself a personal chef who serves me a delicious diet of kale, chia seeds, and fresh fish imported by helicopter from Siberia and then boiled in colostrum and coconut water, I too can sport a postpartum six-pack. For the hundredth time, I wish I’d thought ahead and brought my computer—or at least a good book.
A nurse opens the swinging door with a whoosh, and everyone in the room looks up expectantly. I think I see a lady near the door slipping a fiver into the nurse’s hand, as if she can bribe her way to the top of the list.
“Mrs. Smith?” calls the nurse. Everyone not named Mrs. Smith heaves a despairing sigh. Mrs. Smith leaps up with a grin so broad you’d think she’d just been named the next contestant on “The Price Is Right.” (You know you’ve been waiting forever when going in to face the gynecologist with all her evil torture devices feels like an improvement on your situation.) I can’t decide if I want to offer Mrs. Smith a congratulatory high-five or shoot her an envious glare. The room falls silent. I go back to my magazine and mind-numbing stagnation.
Some waiting seasons are active, jerking us up and down and all around, keeping us guessing, dragging us through wild detours that may be insane but at least keep life exciting. As we wait for The Thing we want, we may be terrified out of our minds, wondering what twist awaits around the next curve, but at least we’re moving; at least we’re doing something!
But then you have the other kind of waiting season: The quiet kind. The monotonous kind. The boring kind. The kind when we’re stuck in life’s waiting room, in between phases, where nothing ever happens and nothing ever changes. Life feels useless, meaningless, a song stuck on repeat. Every day the same: Same old classes, same old job, same old apartment. How we wish things would change, how we long for the next thing—The Thing we are convinced we cannot be happy without…but The Thing won’t come. Life won’t change.
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In times like this, we face a choice: We can either sit there filling our time with empty, brainless things—reading magazines about other people’s lives, scrolling through Instagram pictures of everyone else’s Big Exciting Adventures… or we can fill our own time in meaningful ways. We can find ways to use the “down time,” the life in-between, with purpose. But how do we do that? Find purpose in pauses?
We don’t often think of Him this way, but Jesus was no stranger to waiting. In a way, He spent His whole life waiting: Waiting for the cross, the day of suffering that haunted his future like a daily shadow. Waiting to be set free from this broken world and His soon-to-be broken body. Waiting to return home to heaven and be reunited with His Father.
How did Jesus fill His waiting days? Not worrying about Himself or His own needs—no, He filled His days with service. With love. With constant communion with the Father He missed. We too can fill our in-between days by walking in His ways. By finding people to serve, needs to meet, ways to give.
In Luke 9:23–24 Jesus tells us, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it” (NLT). It’s not easy, but selflessness is the way of Christ. The way of purpose and meaning. Selfishness leads only to frustration and discontentment.
Let’s find people to serve, needs to meet and ways to give, even while we wait. If we reach out to comfort or befriend, to serve or to save even one soul while we’re waiting, this time is not lost. Waiting time need not be wasted life. We can redeem waiting times by giving them to God, so that when our name is finally called and our time in the waiting room is over (hallelujah), we can dance out of the waiting room feeling great about how we spent our time there. We might even high-five a few new friends on the way out.
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Elizabeth works from home as a writer, editor, diaper changer, baby snuggler, laundry slayer, not-so-gourmet chef, kid chauffeur, floor mopper, dog groomer, and tantrum tamer. She is always tired, but it's mostly the good kind.