I am not sure I had much of a concept of waiting until I was 17 years old. I had just pledged my life to the service of my country and was sent off to the Navy Training Center in Great Lakes, Illinois.
I had stood in lunch lines, ticket lines and bus lines, but waiting went to a whole new level in the military. “Hurry up and wait” was not a catch phrase but a way of defining my total existence. In fact, it is hard to remember any activity that did not begin and end with waiting in a line. There was a time when I thought my aversion to waiting could be traced back to my boot camp experience, but I have since learned very few people like waiting.
I have never heard of anyone who had waiting on their “bucket list” or even seen it on a top 20 list of leisure time activities. I cannot remember anyone in a doctor’s office saying, “please call the next person because I really enjoy this waiting room.” I have heard people say, “I would rather drive 10 miles out of my way rather than wait” or “I hate to shop there because I have to wait.”
There may be countless reasons why waiting is such a negative experience: busy, tired, impatient, frustrated, or a fear of wasting time to name only a few. But it is not just about waiting in line that is the problem; it is waiting. It is a part of our common self. We want what we want and we want it now. The idea is not a criticism, it is merely an observation of our “basic wiring” — wiring that it not altered when we become Christ followers.
I am not attempting to make a case for scriptural support of a theory, but in looking at the biblical record, it is interesting the words wait, waiting and waited are in descending order. In other words, the word wait appears most often and the word waited appears the least. This is certainly not the place for an in-depth study, but I would suggest as people of faith, waiting like other things in God’s provision is for our benefit.
Paul, writing to the churches in Rome, noted with great confidence, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 NIV.
You will note there is not an exclusion made for waiting. Perhaps the most difficult part of waiting is also the most beneficial: waiting may force us to exhaust all of our options, give up all of our schemes and plans, and bring us to a place of leaning into God. Stripped of our illusion of control and self-sufficiency, we are brought to a place of trust and reliance. I am not suggesting a defeated resignation but rather a clearer understanding of a God who loves us beyond our comprehension and who is worthy of our faith.
To quote Job, a man who knew something about waiting, “My ears have heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Job 42:5 NIV
Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.