I met a church member for lunch in mid-town today. She waited patiently while the parking meter and I conferred. Relieved as I was not to need change, which I’d forgotten, I got flustered when I couldn’t find the slot for entering my debit card in the new-fangled meter I parked behind. When I finally figured it out, inserted my card and removed it quickly as instructed on the little screen, the screen flashed back at me, “Wait.” “Wait.” “Wait.” “Wait.” “Wait.” “Wait.” “Wait.”
There were way too many waits. Before long my lunch companion and I had the giggles.
Waiting doesn’t always evoke giggles. Waiting can be hard.
Waiting for an eighteen year old who thinks she’s grown up already to grow up already,
Waiting for an addicted sibling to hit bottom,
Waiting for the divorce process to run its’ course,
Waiting for the results from the biopsy,
Waiting to hear back from the interview,
Waiting can be hard.
My birth mother waited 25 years hoping one day she could tell me she loved me and explain why she placed me for adoption. All she could do back then was wait. Adoption laws have changed and the internet has made virtually obsolete old state laws about confidentiality in closed adoptions. But back then, all she could do was wait. Wait to see if I would contact the adoption agency looking for information.
When I looked it was for medical information. Thinking we might try to start our family while serving in Zaire, it seemed prudent to find out whatever I could about my family history. Maybe I had sisters who had already borne children. Maybe there were risks and complications I should be aware of before blithely becoming pregnant at the equator with limited medical care.
The social worker sent a form. “On this page please write about yourself. We have learned that birth parents are more willing to share information when they know something about the adopted adult seeking information.” What was I supposed to write? One page, no identifying information. I wrote my whole life story in three paragraphs and sent it by air-mail from France where we were in language school. Then I waited. Two weeks for the letter to make it to Omaha. At least two weeks to get a return letter from the social worker. When it came, all the medical information was updated. It had not been difficult to find my birth mom and she was happy to provide the requested information. At the end of the form was a note, “your birth mother would like to make contact with you. Are you willing to exchange letters, through our agency, without sharing any identifying information? If so, we can begin the process even as you file the appropriate forms with the Secretary of State.”
Several weeks later our mailbox at Language School was filled with a fat manila envelope, filled with a long letter and many, many photos of people, “your Aunt Alice,” “your Aunt Ruth” “your Grandma” “your sister” “your sister” (but, none of my aunts were named Alice and my Aunt Ruth looked nothing like the woman in that photo and my beloved grandmothers had both died, and I had brothers, not sisters). I was disoriented by suddenly having a whole other family besides my own whom I had known all my life.
We had to wait a long while to meet each other and then to become more than strangers to each other. I was overwhelmed. I needed time. My birth mother was patient with me. She waited until I was ready to know her better.
Waiting isn’t easy, but, so many times in life we simply have to wait. We can’t control other people. We can’t control all the circumstances and moving pieces of our lives intersecting with the lives of others. Paul, the Apostle wrote to the Romans, “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord.” Sometimes it takes God awhile to get all the pieces lined up for that good to come to pass. Sometimes, when we get in too big a hurry, we throw monkey wrenches into the ways God is working. Getting impatient can backfire on us.
Sometimes I try to fix things, resolve things, and settle things before it’s time. I was working on doing just that about something earlier this summer when, on a Sunday in front of the whole congregation, while singing our closing hymn in church, the heavens opened and I heard the trumpets sound as a bright light shined down on me in the sanctuary. (Ok. It wasn’t like that at all). It was just the third verse of an oldie-moldy hymn spoke to me as if directly from God’s mouth to my ears. We were singing “Take Time to Be Holy” when these words were God’s words directly to me, “Take time to be holy, let him be thy guide, and run not before him, whatever betide; in joy or in sorrow, still follow they Lord. And, looking to Jesus, still trust in his word.” ( W.D. Longstaff, 1882).
And run not before him… Sometimes the word of the day is “wait.” “Wait,” “Wait.” “Wait.” “Wait.”