Thursday, November 12, 2009


I recently heard about a new book called "The Meaning is in the Waiting," by Paula Gooder. In this run-up to Advent season, it offers ways of learning to love waiting.

I am learning about waiting; we do so much of it in chaplain work. My own tolerance for waiting has grown immensely, mostly by denying that I am waiting and instead accepting that I am present for the other person. I'm not waiting at all. By being present, I remove my expectation from the room and can accept what each moment brings.

This book offers more depth to waiting that I had not yet considered. The summary indicates that in the company of the biblical characters we "discover very different kinds of waiting..."

* Abraham and Sarah -- who waited a lifetime for the fulfillment of God's promises.
* The Hebrew prophets -- who waited for God's intervention, both longed for and feared.
* John the Baptist -- whose ministry marked the end of one era and anticipated the new.
* Mary -- whose life was shaped by waiting and by events beyond her control.

These are different kinds of waiting. I still dance with that tension between waiting and being present. "To be 'expectant' rather than urgent, yet focused on God's presence rather than on some future." It's subtle, I think, this delicate difference.

Usually, the family member or patient helps discern it for me. Sometimes, it is too traumatic to ask where God is in the moment. Sometimes, asking that question is the only way to tolerate the waiting. If I name that we are waiting, and that I am present with them, I find that somehow a mutuality arises about what kind of waiting we are both experiencing.

I ask, how does waiting affect my abililty to show up to the moment?

Mark 15.43: Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

How does waiting affect you?

1 comment:

  1. Today was Black Friday, my least favorite day ever to be in a store. Waiting in line in a store--yuck! But I had a date with K-Mart to purchase thermal shirts for 100 homeless people at the best price of the season. So, if I had to wait, I would. I was in a good mood from celebrating my twin sister's returning health. The staff was prepared for me and less than 30 minutes after I arrived, I was on my way back home! This is a thinly disguised plug for K-mart, whom I try to support when I can.

    "Tolerance for waiting..." you say. That says it well. I do my best to avoid waiting.
    I have a tendency to fill up the space when I have to wait. I try to keep a book in the car, just in case something ties up the traffic. I appreciate your invitation to change my lens to an awareness of God's presence. I also like that you pointed out that we wait together. Waiting together makes it more tolerable,too, doesn't it?