Doctor’s offices… I hate them… also any office that requires you to sit in a stuffy, overly crowded waiting room for an appointment that you made weeks before and yet every time you show up you have to sit for an hour (or two) to even be called back. The waiting room, it’s the pits.
I have pushed off seeing a doctor for a few years now for some weird things that have been going on and I finally made the decision that four years was long enough without answers. And you know what that decision got me? More waiting rooms. Like a plethora of them. Blood tests and follow ups and x-rays and follow ups and MRI’s and follow ups. Seriously, why can’t we just make one long day of it and call it good instead of dragging it out for weeks? I have spent more time in the waiting room than actually face to face with any doctor and while patience may be a virtue, it is not one I currently possess enough of.
Have you heard of the five stages of grief?
Well I have found that they are pretty similar to the- four stages of waiting:
Stage 1… Anticipation
Everyone is filled with anticipation upon first arriving to any appointment and taking their seat in the waiting room. It is in this stage that we find ourselves daydreaming about the white picket fence and the tall dark and handsome who will give our children half of their genes. It is the most exciting out of all of the stages. Full of hope and trust in God because we know our Bibles and Psalm 37:4 promises us that if we “delight [ourselves] also in the Lord” that “He will give [us] the desires and secret petitions of [our] hearts.” Doesn’t that sound incredible?
This is the stage where rainbows and butterflies exist and your name is going to be the one they call next. The one where dreams are possible, answers are guaranteed, and waiting won’t last forever. This stage, I have a love hate relationship with this stage. It’s hopeful and beautiful and more times than not, a giant bowl full of crap. Have you heard the verse about “hope deferred [making] the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12), well I am pretty sure it was written for just such a stage as this.
Once anticipation wears off we get hit like a ton of bricks by stage number two.
Stage 2… Anxiety
The questions start coming in like a flood. Did you miss your name being called? Are you in the right office, on the right day? What if you don’t get the answers you were hoping for? The questions have a way of taking over; they have the ability to silence absolutely everything else in your life and paralyze you from the head down. They are all consuming and all controlling. And as beautiful as the sentiment is to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6), it is way easier said than done.
Anxious thoughts have a way of being put down and then picked back up time and time again.
Can we truly pray about such things and be free instantly from our anxiety? Or is it best understood as a continual prayer to keep our hearts focused on the right things?
Whatever the case, anxiety soon leads to something I have a feeling all of us have experienced at least once not just in our lifetime, but sometimes daily.
Stage 3… Anger
Your once harmless thoughts have now turned to something far greater. You start to look around and get angered at how many are being called in before you. How many have received their answers, seen the doctors, who have barely just arrived.
Hello? You were totally here well before them? Why can’t they go in order? Is it something you did or didn’t do?
You shoot glares across the room to the patients, to the nurses, to anyone who is not making what you came in for a priority. It’s not personal but it feels personal.
Anger has a way of creeping in every time we decide to compare our lives with the lives of others. Our timelines with theirs. But who are we truly mad at? Them for coming to the doctor office, or the doctor for seeing them first? I have a sneaking suspicion that many of us have some misplaced anger with God that we are taking out on people, because He is doing for them what we have been asking Him to do for us.
Just a few short verses after reading how God would give us the desires of our heart, David instructs us to “rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way… cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret—it only causes harm.” (Psalm 37:7-8) It wasn’t unintentional for David to link the two- our waiting for answers and getting angry with others who have gotten theirs- because it happens, every time.
But when we allow ourselves to go through each of these stages keeping God’s word in mind, it always leaves us with this last thing.
Stage 4… Acceptance
It is only in this stage that we find ourselves committed to the waiting; understanding that it is necessary, and that our being there is completely unrelated to everything and everyone else. We stop obsessing about the answers and start to look around. We examine the posters on the walls, the childish choice of movies playing, and the people that we were once infuriated by become more human. It was in this stage that God spoke to my heart so clearly just a few weeks ago; something that He could have only said when I was still, committed and at peace.
I had been in this one waiting room for almost an hour, the place had emptied itself twice and my name had yet to be called. At first there was anticipation, then anxiety, then anger, but I had finally made my way into acceptance. I found myself watching “Brave” on the small TV tucked in the corner across the room when there was some small commotion behind me. I turned around to find a woman who had dropped something and a man- a stranger to her- jumping in to help her pick it up. She smiled, thanked him and took her seat. Honestly, it was beautiful.
And then there was the woman there with her mother. I watched as they laughed and talked with such passion for life. They were unfazed by how long they had been there or how many had gone before them because they were there together, and being together was enough. Enough to silence the unanswered questions or the problems they were facing. Their love for each other was evident and their waiting full of joy. It too was beautiful.
But my attention was quickly stolen by the sound of a mother trying to sooth her crying baby. She paced, she talked, she sang, she tried everything without any relief from that little girl’s shrieks of discontentment. I have been there before. Most days I am still there with Jacob and he is now well over three. It’s miserable and embarrassing and I couldn’t help but feel pity for her.
And just as soon as I had realized all that was going on around me my name was called and I heard it loudly. Not my name, although it had been called and caused me to rise from my chair and move toward the nurse motioning to take me back, but I heard Him speak so softly to my heart, “don’t waste the wait”.
I knew what He meant. I knew exactly what He was telling me.
I had spent over an hour so focused on myself and my problems and my questions that I forgot to lift my eyes to see the world around me. Not the newest update on politics or where our world is headed, not the opinions shouted loudly in the most inappropriate of places, but the people I had been placed with in the waiting room.
I could have found peace instead of anticipation if I had allowed myself to see the beauty of human kindness.
I could have found patience instead of anxiety if I had brought someone to share in my wait.
I could have found purpose instead of anger if I had recognized and offered to help those hurting around me.
I could have, but I didn’t. I wasted it.
I was so caught up in me that I forgot about everyone else. I was selfish. And instead of condemnation, I felt the conviction of God rise up on the inside of me. Not a hateful “YOU WASTED IT” but a challenge for the many waiting rooms I would continue to find myself in- “don’t waste the wait” He said.
So, dear friends I challenge you with the same thought. Whether you are in a physical room or a spiritual one, don’t waste it. God will call your name when the time is right and give you the answers you so desperately desire. He is faithful and has you in the place you are in for a purpose- so commit to being in it. I can only imagine what He can do in and through you while you are committed to the wait.
Psalm 27:14 "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!"