This is the waiting room. Welcome. You know this place, don’t you? When we are in the waiting room, we eventually have to make this choice: We can either distance ourselves from God or we can trust him in the wait.
This truth became so evident to me over the last three years, a season when I’ve logged many hours in waiting rooms—literal ones. Waiting for a friend when she had a cancerous lump removed. Waiting for our daughter Anna when she underwent procedures for a digestive problem. Waiting for Dad when he had a pacemaker put in, and then more waiting when he had part of his right leg amputated.
I’ve found that waiting rooms everywhere are a lot alike. An interior decorator has done what he or she could to make the place inviting. Chairs are upholstered in trendy colors. Fake greenery has been arranged in matchy-matchy ceramic pots.
Meanwhile, the one you love is on an operating table. Your inner “fixer” is paralyzed. Unless you happen to have a degree in neurosurgery or anesthesiology, you are clearly not needed. You are, instead, stuck—feeling rather powerless—in the waiting room. If you’re lucky, a digital board identifies your loved one by a number and provides periodic status reports.
My family of origin tends to be the obnoxiously loud ones in the waiting room. Humor has always been a coping mechanism for us. I suppose there could be worse things than laughing through hard times.
Our stories in the waiting room kept us sane during one of Dad’s recent surgeries. Every so often, one of us would step out of our circle, somber faced, to check the digital board. A sister would whisper, “Still in surgery.” We’d pause, and then we’d all start in again. Here in the waiting room, it was about stories, connection, laughter. It was about family.
There was no pushing, only pausing.
Oddly, these moments, when I sat miles away from the answers I wanted, were an unexpected gift because they caused me to consider the practice of being still. I did not flit or fly. I was a bird on a wire, wings tucked in, waiting for hope to appear, inching up from the horizon.
Waiting has compelled me to understand that I’m not in charge of the world and that my notions of control are all an illusion anyway. Waiting can feel like a weakness, especially in a culture that places a high value on self-sufficiency and “making things happen.” Waiting is the opposite of sufficiency, and it leaves me exposed and armorless.
I step into so much of my life wearing armor: The armor of ambition. The armor of good performances. The armor of masks. The armor of control. The armor of trying harder.
There is no armoring up when you’re waiting. You simply wait, stripped down, vulnerable before your struggle. You can fix nothing. You are not in charge now—not that you ever were—but the armor you wear on a typical day gave you a false sense of security. You finally realize there shall be no pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. This can be a very beautiful thing. When you pause—instead of push—you do all the things that matter most: You pray. You read Scripture. You sit quietly—or laugh loudly, if that’s more your style—with friends and family. You practice allowing yourself to be still.
In the quietness of a hospital waiting room, I would often turn inward and whisper to my Savior, “How would we get through this without you, Jesus?” Letting down your faux armor causes you to more carefully inspect your life and discover how incredible it is to belong to Jesus: Where, oh where, would we be without Jesus?
Where are you today, friend? Where, oh where, are you?
Perhaps you are in a waiting room of some kind too. Perhaps you wish to act instead of wait. You want to take matters into your own hands but haven’t a clue how—or even if you should.
What are you waiting for? The answer to your financial distress? A baby to come? A resolution to a relational conflict? The phone to ring? The wound to heal? The last twenty pounds to drop? That moment when it’s your chance to finally celebrate?
You ask good questions for which there are no immediate answers: Why is this opportunity slipping through my fingers? How am I going to go on now that he’s gone?
Maybe today you actually are reading these words in a hospital waiting room while someone you love is in the operating room, and your prayers seem to dissolve into antiseptic air as you cry out silently: Are you here, God?
Though he may be silent, God has not abandoned you. He is working while you wait.
The work that God does in the waiting room often proves more important than the end result. Here he will give you clarity for what he wants you to do when the wait is over. Here he will draw near to you. Here you will get in touch with your essential self, the one who wasn’t made to wear all that armor.
This is the greatest gift of the waiting room. Lean in close, for when you least expect it, you will sense the presence of Jesus in ways you never could have before.
BIO: Jennifer Dukes Lee is the wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, and an author. She loves queso and singing too loudly to songs with great harmony. Once upon a time, she didn’t believe in Jesus. Now, He’s her CEO. Jennifer’s newest book, It’s All Under Control, and a companion Bible study, are releasing today! This is a book for every woman who is hanging on tight and trying to get each day right―yet finding that life often feels out of control and chaotic.
Adapted from It’s All under Control: A Journey of Letting Go, Hanging On, and Finding a Peace You Almost Forgot Was Possible by Jennifer Dukes Lee, releasing this fall from Tyndale House Publishers.