You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race…
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or the waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
—Dr. Seuss, Oh the Places You’ll Go
I sat in the waiting room, not sure what to do with my own thoughts. My mind drifted to Seinfeld, and then back to my phone. I checked for new emails…again, but nothing. I thought about my plans for the day, the things I should’ve done yesterday, and what book I should read next. I waited, and waited, and waited. When would my name be called?
I don’t like waiting. Most of us don’t, and if you do, I bet you also religiously squeeze toothpaste tubes from the bottom.
I did a lot of waiting my senior year of college. But this was different than just standing in line or sitting in a waiting room. I was waiting on major life decisions, sending out applications and waiting to hear back. Waiting on relationships. Waiting on knowing what my future would look like. Half of my life seemed consumed with the future, and I had to actively fight to engage with the present. And in all this waiting around, I thought back to that scene in A Cinderella Story in which Sam (Hilary Duff) yells at Austin (Chad Michael Murray): “Waiting for you is like waiting for rain in this drought. Useless and disappointing.” It’s a cheesy movie to quote from, but I can empathize with Sam. Waiting often does feel useless and disappointing.
Dr. Seuss calls waiting “a most useless place.” In Oh the Places You’ll Go, a popular graduation present (and one of my personal favorites), Dr. Seuss prompts the reader to escape the waiting place and move on to better, brighter places:
That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
—Dr. Seuss, Oh the Places You’ll Go
And like the little kid in Oh the Places You’ll Go, I wanted to escape the waiting place, see those brighter places and discover what Boom Bands were. Seuss was right; waiting wasn’t for me.
You see, waiting came along with another W-word—worry. I was anxious about the next step, fearful that I was wasting valuable time and opportunities. Most of all, I was worried that I would fail. Thus, I wondered:
Why was God making me wait?
The answer came in the most unexpected place. Even if you’re not a Christian, I hope you keep reading (I mean you’ve already gotten this far) because it’s a worthwhile answer. At the time, I was reading Gary Thomas’ Sacred Marriage, which was odd, because it’s a book for married people or couples soon to be married people, and I fit into neither of those categories. (I won’t go into why I was reading this book, but trust that I’ve already received a fair amount of teasing because of it.) One of the central themes of the book is that God cares more about my holiness than my happiness. I found this to be a radical concept, a paradigm shift. What if my waiting had less to do with chasing happiness than pursuing holiness? What if my waiting was a time of growth rather than a setback?
Contrary to popular belief, waiting does not need to be useless and disappointing. The secret is learning how to wait well. There’s real value in knowing how to do so. To know how to not drown in worry, to not be overcome with frustration, or be overwhelmed by unknowns. It’s not only about patience, but rethinking how we view waiting. Waiting can be meaningful.
All this wondering about waiting inspired a short story I wrote called “My Life in Car Drives.” From a seemingly mundane ride to school to driving through the night from Prague to Munich, I weave together my life story only through a few meaningful car drives. The story is much too personal for me to ever post it on this semi-anonymous blog, but I bring it up because it captures my newfound perspective on waiting. The narrative doesn’t focus on destinations; it’s about the conversations that took place between point A and point B. Like when I met one of my lifelong best friends during a middle school trip. Like gazing at the night skyline with my brother, talking about relationships. Like when my father told me for the first time how he fell in love with my mother. The story ends with a fictional night drive through heavy rain. The rain is so thick we can barely see a few feet ahead. I should be scared. I should be worried. But I’m not. I’m enjoying the ride. I might not be there yet, but I’m soaking in the music and conversation.
So much of life is not where we’re driving to, but the car drive itself.
Why can’t this apply to waiting? Why can’t waiting be the place where the magic happens, as opposed to “a most useless place”?
I’m still waiting on a lot of major life events, and I probably will always have something I’m waiting and hoping for. Therefore, I’m striving to learn how to wait well. For me, that means seizing the present—using the time and resources I have right now and preparing for tomorrow (whatever that may be). Charles Stanley says, “Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object we’re waiting for.” I believe I am waiting on meaningful things, but just because I’m waiting, doesn’t mean I can or should sit idly by. Waiting can have purpose beyond just the end goal.
And as I wait, I can feel myself growing in perseverance and trust. I think about those car drives, breathy deeply, and relish today.