You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
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 waiting around for a Yes or a No or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting. (Dr. Seuss, Oh! The Places You’ll Go)
This time last year we were up north previewing the camp we and other area youth ministers had rented for our Junior High students in June. The day was unseasonable cool and I remember wondering how our kids, in just four short weeks could ever dream of swimming in the lake. Isaac was with friends, and we brought Gianna along. In typical fashion, I had forgotten to bring the Bjorn, so Brad and I took turns holding her as we walked through cabins and woods. Brad spent a lot of the day on the cell phone, with spotty coverage, arguing back and forth with Children’s Hospital staff in St. Paul. We had recently gotten Gianna tested for some elements in her blood that would indicate that she had the same mitochondrial disorder that took her brother. We were anxious to hear the news that would confirm what we’d come to accept: she was a healthy little girl and we had nothing more to worry about than beating away her would-be suitors. The mix-up between clinic staffs was finally cleared up and a call from our doctor came in right as we approached the Target parking lot where our carpool had met. The numbers were not good.
We entered “The Waiting Place” that day, as further results and retests and appointments were scheduled. Was it a fluke? This is a hard test to get right. And once the worst was confirmed, over Memorial Day weekend, we continued to wait. For a liver, or a miracle, or for our little girl to join her brother in heaven.
I feel like I’ve spent much of my life in The Waiting Place. As the youngest, I waited through much of my childhood to be as big as my sister. I waited for college, for summer vacation, for NET, to get married, to have kids, for those kids to finally be born… there always seemed to be something new and exciting to look forward to. I admit I spent more time than necessary going over and over how things might turn out, sometimes to the point of restlessness. Gianna taught me a lot about waiting while savoring the present moment. From the first weeks after her conception, we treasured her. But especially after her sickness was confirmed, we had no choice but to live only in each day. I look back and marvel at the fact that the end of May to mid July is only about 6 weeks. Holy cow, it seemed like an eternity. Partially because of the grief-and-hospital-induced trancelike fog in which we were living, but partially because we filled up each hour not with the past or future, but with the present moment. As hard as it was, I will look back on that month and a half as one of the most precious of my life.
Most of our life’s waiting will (gratefully) not be as dramatic as ours was in May 2008. But it can all be as full of the present moment, and all be as fruitful. Jesus was 30 when He started His ministry, which lasted only 3 years. Do you realize what that means? He waited for 30 years! He and Mary worked, took care of their cave, worshipped… day in and day out for thirty long years. You can bet (being as they were both sinless and Jesus was God and all) that not a moment of that time was wasted. Jesus, through His humanity in those hidden years, sanctified waiting.
And so, as we enter a non-life threatening, but still anxiety-inducing (job-searching) waiting this May, I need to continue to remind myself that this is not a “most useless place”. This is right where God wants our family right now. And if I let it, with the help of grace, it can be a holy time, sanctifying us as we wait in joyful hope.