Waiting Is The Hardest Part

waiting-lineWaiting in line. Waiting for dinner. Waiting for a train. Waiting for a package to arrive.

Waiting for test results. Waiting for your teen to get home. Waiting for guests to arrive.

Waiting for a phone call. Waiting for a headache to subside. Waiting for the storm to stop.

Waiting for coffee to brew. Waiting for an answer. Waiting for the light to turn green.

Waiting for your turn. Waiting for your flight. Waiting to hear about that job.

Growing impatience. Growing boredom. Time slows to a crawl. Sometimes fear sets in.

Maybe Tom Petty had it right when he sang…

“The waiting is the hardest part. Every day you see one more card. You take it on faith; you take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part.”

Why is waiting so difficult for most people?

wait-2Because waiting feels like it serves no purpose.

Because it seems like a waste of time.

Because we hate that we can’t control the situation.

Because it often comes with an unknown outcome.

Because we don’t want to miss out on anything.

Because we really don’t have to wait for much anymore.

Our on-demand culture certainly emphasizes the futility of waiting, of having everything “Your Way Right Away.” After all, we run full tilts on instant messages, fast food and push notifications. Unfortunately, waiting and getting what we want right away all the time only hacks away at our ability for patience in every area of life.

“The need for round-the-clock connection not only makes people more impatient, it also robs them of time for quiet reflection or deeper, more critical thinking. They tend to want constant stimulation, have less impulse control and get distracted more easily.” (Instant Gratification & Its Dark Side by Ronald Aslop)

My family went on a Caribbean cruise last spring. We turned off our phones and locked them in our room safe for the 10-day cruise as soon as we got on board. Many cruisers did not but instead opted to pay the significant fees for limited cell phone access. If a Caribbean cruise can’t lure someone away from the always-connected pace of life, might there be a significant problem at play?

We all know someone like this, right? We get frustrated when they can’t seem to part with their phone, when they pause a face-to-face conversation to have a virtual one. We easily recognize the vanishing effort to slow down our fast-paced, ever-connected lives to spend time simply breathing and thinking and existing… in others anyway.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Do they really? If this is true, why don’t more people seek to develop patience and their ability to wait? Why do they allow their impatience to drive them? Why do they let technology constantly drive their gratification in every area of life? Why do they think they need success in short order rather than after hard work and long-term effort?

Can we admit that sometimes, this “they” we’re talking about could be our kids, our spouse and maybe even ourselves? Can we see that instant has tainted — maybe even ruined — our ability to patiently wait?

If we take just a few moments, better yet an afternoon or a day, to let go of instant, I think we’ll realize that when we get whatever it is we want right away, we’re never really satisfied because there’s always more to want and have. If we take longer, say a week or more of vacation — a slow-paced one, not a frantic, see-everything one — and limit or eliminate instant as much a possible in our lives, we might discover a part of ourselves longing to get out more.

Learning to Wait Again

manikin-1154431-1599x1832Read a book. Make meals from scratch. Take walks without your phone; let it play dead. Play games. Talk. Look people in the eye. Ask questions, then really listen.

At first you’ll likely feel the itch to get back to instant. Resist the urge. Refuse to give in. Your patience has been dormant a while and may need time to stretch before it can move about again. As time passes, you’ll discover that simplicity, quiet reflection and critical thinking offer something you’ve longed for unaware. You’ll see that real connection happens face-to-face. And you might even create a desire for a less-instant life, one that comes only when pursued.

Learn to slow down and wait again. Teach yourself how to enjoy every moment. Let life’s pace decrease, so you can discover the good that comes through waiting and patience.

What small steps can you take toward less instant life today? What results do you hope to see in the pursuit of learning to wait?

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

dead fishCulture simultaneously challenges us to break free from comfort zones while also providing for their longevity. With the constant offering of pleasures anew, along with the comfort found in instant gratification, we live in a confusing and uncomfortable culture.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

Does it really? This quote by Neale Donald Walsch made me question whether or not I needed to totally discard comfort in order to truly live life. Or maybe, I wonder, does comfort allow for the uncomfortable to flourish?

Perhaps living too much in one or the other – comfort or discomfort – actually stifles real living. Maybe having the structure created by some level of safe, secure and familiar provides much-needed security. Then, that security allows for the regular experience of discomfort in a successful way.

Comfort that Supports Discomfort

An organized, comfortable home gives my kids the security they need to go on adventures and meet new people. It gives them promise of a comfortable sanctuary for rest and recuperation waiting for them when they get at home.

Knowing I can produce a lot of volume pretty quickly as a writer gives me the confidence to venture into the scary and challenging world of book writing. I find comfort knowing that the act of writing (specifically, quantity) comes easily. This inspires me to try new styles and genres that might not come naturally.

Dressing comfortably helps me be more social, which is uncomfortable for my shy and introverted self, I’m just braver mentally when I’m comfortable physically.

The God of Comfort

Being comfortable with God, knowing He goes before me and with me (Deuteronomy 31:8) creates an deep comfort. That comfort makes me want to be brave and to tell others about Him. Having this comfort zone with God compels me to make my life a transparent example of His grace and mercy.

So yes, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” But, your comfort zone can also provide a structure for bravely venturing into the uncomfortable areas of life.

Delayed Lessons

trafficOn our way to Gatlinburg, TN for vacation one year, we planned on spending the night in Cincinnati just beyond the Ohio River. A 1/2 hour before reaching our hotel, we met a traffic jam and quickly exited the highway to find an alternate route.

Simply put, there was no alternate route across the river. So we went back to the highway to wait, but traffic had already cleared. We got to our hotel 15 minutes later.

Our culture seems averse to waiting. From small to big events in life, we live in an delay-avoidance culture. Unfortunately, this leads to underdeveloped faith & character because we attempt to force progress instead of going through the learning process.

Chapter 6 of Bob Sorge’s book, The Fire of Delayed Answers, focuses on  Jesus’ Teachings on Delays. This seemingly unimportant travel event in my life took on significance as I read this chapter because I realized that if I am unable to handle a small traffic delay, I probably need to look at how I am handling (or more accurately, avoiding) larger delays.

waitRecalling this event in light of Jesus’ teachings on delay, I realized that…

  1. Attempting to avoid delay often causes longer delays. We lost a 1/2 hour searching for an alternate route, by rushing to find a solution when waiting was actually best.
  2. Knowing why a delay takes place isn’t necessary. In many cases, traffic just suddenly disappears without a clear cause. Can’t we ever accept that delays just happen, and we won’t and don’t always need to know why?
  3. Growing tired is often a sign to wait. We just wanted to get to our hotel and should have known that fatigue compromised our decision-making abilities.  Waiting is often the best choice when you’re tired.
  4. Expecting delays should be automatic in our thinking. We’ve all driven enough to know that delays happen, and we should focus on being thankful to get through them safely and then definitely thankful when travel goes smoothly.
  5. Desiring instant gratification often overrides good decision making. Wanting to get somewhere “Now!” often skews our ability to make good decisions. How many times have you waited before making a decision and then been so thankful that you waited? How many times did you make a hasty decision only to learn later that waiting would have made the decision unnecessary?

The inability to wait leads to a host of issues. We know that being faithful in the small things leads to being trusted with bigger responsibility, so if we’re unable to wait in some slow traffic who are we to expect to be trusted to wait out the maturation process needed in bigger events of life? A process that requires delays & waiting.

The following quote from Sorge illustrates the over-arching lesson well and makes even more significant application.

“In the face of delayed answers, it takes great faith to persevere in seeking only the face of God – to “cry out day and night to Him” Because your mind will imagine all kinds of other possible sources of relief you could conceivably pursue. Your creativity will spring to life, and it will in fact militate against your faith. There are many who give up the pursuit of God at this point, their faith collapses, and they seek out another source of help.”

DISCUSSION: What lessons have you learned through the delays of life?

Welcome to the book club discussion of The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge. Each blogger in the group is reading and then sharing on what inspires, encourages, or challenges them. We’ll be taking 2 weeks per chapter. Our co-facilitators are Jason and Sarah – other active participants include Dusty, Glynn, Joell, TC and Rick.  If you know of others, please leave a link for their post in the comments.