Waiting.... Sometimes it seems we spend most of our life in the waiting. I've been there all too often--in life's waiting and in real life waiting rooms... As we waited for the outcome of my father's heart surgery. And my father-in-law's brain surgery. As nurses wheeled my sons away for head CT's and MRI's and to set my daughter's broken arm. As I waited time and again for an answer for strange debilitating symptoms until finally I heard the tentative words--"multiple sclerosis." And as my children and I waited for doctors to revive their dad only to be told, "There was nothing we could do."
The waiting room is a place of pain, anxiety, worry and fear--and sometimes, a place of "what if's," blame, and tears. Sometimes, we sit there in the waiting nervously bantering about things that don't really matter just to keep from thinking the worst. And more often than not, we begin mentally filtering through old memories (good and bad), sometimes sharing them aloud with others. Yet we keep the most poignant thoughts and memories to ourselves lest we give in to the "what if's." Finally, all we have left is the silence. Oh, the silence... It leaves so much room for wondering.
I remember one such waiting room, I was stuck in a memory I couldn't let go of and the pain of it took its toll on me. I wasn't really there by choice, but the PTSD episode left me unsafe to be alone so a friend took me to the hospital to treat self-inflicted wounds. I was falling apart so the hospital staff put us in a tiny little private waiting room meant for families. Those moments in that little waiting room have become the example of life in the waiting room. I couldn't do anything but pace and ramble on as I sorted through the details of the memory that had me in its grip. As these episodes go, I don't always remember the details of the present--my whole focus is the recollection of painful past events. I don't remember all that I actually said that day, but I remember clearly the memory and the process as remembering laid it all out before me piece by piece so I could handle it. I remember pacing back and forth as I sorted through it detail by detail--out loud I think.
The only other person in that little room was the one who brought me. He didn't judge me or hush me or interrupt me or tell me to get a grip--at least not during this time when I just needed to let the memory take breath for a while. He let me talk while he sat quietly gave me space to pace. He simply listened and waited with me. Even if it didn't make sense to him, I couldn't stop until it was all out and I had nothing left. I have no idea what must have run through his head or how it affected him. We've never talked about those particular moments--the "remembering"-- in that little room before the doctors and professionals stepped in. I couldn't have told him then in the confusion and brokenness of the moment, but his listening and his quietness was a precious gift.
I don't remember that entire day or even understand it; sometimes PTSD just doesn't make sense. I am told that in the hours that followed, I wasn't very cooperative. But I remember well those moments in that tiny little waiting room with a faithful friend and I gratefully cherish them. Though it took some time for me to see it, I know now that particular waiting room has become my example of being in God's waiting room.
It's in the waiting that I have learned to pour out my heart to God--the good, the bad, and the ugly--just as I poured out memories to a mindful friend that day. And God quietly listens and waits with me for He knows that secret hurts must take breath for a while and all that is hidden must be brought to light. And that can only be done in the emptying of my heart.
Then in the following silence that seems so interminable, He begins restoring my soul little by little because He has truly heard my cries. As I pour out pain, fear, grief, bitterness, and doubt, He fills the void with His presence. As the silence turns to wondering, He is answering me in His own way and His own time. It's in the hardest waiting that I've been changed the most and the most lasting, I think, simply because that's when I'm the weakest and He is the strongest.
I remember other waiting rooms... As I waited to hear each of my babies' heartbeats for the first time. As I waited with expectant grandparents to welcome Sadie to the world--a long-time prayer come true. As I waited with heart pounding for the military plane to land or bus to arrive bringing my sons back home from foreign lands and wars. And as I waited with bated breath for my baby girl to have her baby girl--my first grandchild. The waiting room is place of pain and fear but it is also a place of anticipation, expectation, hope, and even joy as new life begins. Even in the uncertainty of the waiting room, He continues His perfect work in each of us.
"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you (and me), will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus return." - Philippians 1:6