In a time where easy access to what we want is at an all-time high, we’ve become obsessed with the instantaneousness of which we can receive things. We don’t wait in line for our food anymore, we order through an app so it’ll be ready when we arrive. If we order something online, we check the tracking of our purchase several times a day for updates. If the Internet begins to buffer in the middle of a show we’re watching, it sends us into a meltdown. And our phones are a world within a world of endless information.
Are we a people, then, who wait? Sure, at least for the things we can’t control. Sometimes the traffic is bad even if we look up a faster route. Sometimes we still wait even at self-checkout. Not just in these things, but in the bigger things of life, the things that affect our longing and sense of worth and belonging, how do we wait well?
Waiting evokes a stillness of one’s heart and mind that is not often required of us. Since our days mostly consist of sprints, that’s all we’re conditioned for. We don’t know how to respond to a marathon. The thing about them too—those marathons—is we don’t know they’re coming and therefore can’t prepare. They become the process by which we not only hope to receive what we long for, but are also being prepared. Every day of waiting prepares us for the next.
As Isabelle and I prepared to move to Atlanta, I was wrapping up my graduate program. I’d gone to grad school to study specific things to go into a specific field, and had unwavering doubt that once we moved here I’d be a shoe-in anywhere I applied. It wasn’t the case. I applied and applied and applied, but nothing. I applied for positions I was qualified for, positions I was unqualified for, positions so far in left field because eventually the reality sets in that nearly any job is a good job when you don’t have one.
Through the process I found some part-time work. And even though Isabelle had a good salaried job, we couldn’t live solely off her income. So seven days a week for nearly a year and a half I worked two jobs to help get us by. We had to limit ourselves and refrain from pleasures and entertainment most people we knew were experiencing. Date nights were simple, mostly consisting of Chipotle or frozen yogurt.
In between it all, I continued to seek out full-time work. Still, I received rejection after rejection. Sometimes companies didn’t even bother to reject me. So I’d call to follow up but never receive a call back. A friend of mine who is much older and experienced and brimming with unparalleled wisdom used to say to me, “It’s in God’s mercy that you didn’t get that job.” Maybe with the first one, sure. But after not getting job after job I found my friend’s comment unhelpful and frustrating. How could it be merciful of God to not give me something that I need? At that time I would have taken anything.
Eventually the job did come and it was, in every sense, more than I could have asked for or imagined. It wasn’t what I thought I’d be doing, or necessarily wanted to do, but it was full-time and the experience taught me new things and offered me the opportunity to work alongside creative and intelligent people from whom I’ve learned much.
Looking back I now know I was being emptied. But the thing about being emptied is you can’t do it yourself, it has to be done for you by something outside of you. You might not always realize it’s happening, and even if you do you violently resist the experience. But how else can we be refilled with the right stuff and be made whole?
Maybe my friend was right all along, that it was merciful of God to not provide what I wanted when I wanted it. Because in our waiting, being called out of ourselves, some of the most significant growth we can hope to experience is offered to us.
In our waiting we are met face to face with the worst parts of ourselves: our tempers and our sharp words, our stress-eating and our cavalier spending. And it’s in the waiting that we are emptied and filled again. We’re given a fresh vision of God and the way he intervenes for us. We’re given peace and and we’re given hope. Waiting well means to surrender to that process.
Because insofar as I know anything I know this: it will come. That thing that you long for, that thing that has you waiting, it will come. It may not look how you thought it would, and it certainly may not be when you thought it would, but it will come.