Faith Notebook: How we wait

  Midnight in the waiting room for Accident & Emergency, and you can tell who the worried newcomers are. They pace around and still think it will make a difference to their place in the queue if they hassle the poor receptionist every twenty minutes. A few years ago there was a time when I regularly needed to take someone with a heart problem to the Accident and Emergency department. The first few times were quite stressful and I was unprepared. After the canteen shut I couldn’t find anywhere to get us food whilst waiting through the night. Or I’d worn a thick top which was sweltering in the hospital, kept warm for patients in nightclothes. The general feeling was one of worry and anxiety, all that mattered was getting to the front of the queue. After a few visits we were more prepared. I had a bag packed and ready with change for parking and for the coffee machine, snacks, enough books and newspapers for us to last through hours of waiting and treatment, and a fully charged mobile phone.
When you get used to a place you start to notice the other people there. I found myself giving people directions around the maze-like hospital and lending out newspapers. I’d recommend the hot chocolate rather than the tea which tasted a bit over-stewed. I’d say a quick prayer for the bereaved woman letting out the most heartbreaking screams, and for the drunk man who didn’t understand why the lights were so bright at 3am. As the waiting became familiar the place lost some of its fear. Life can feel like a big queue, we’re always waiting for one thing or another: we might be waiting and praying for a good thing to happen, for a change in our circumstances, for help with a difficult situation, for an answer, for clarity about the past. What we might find after a while, is that sometimes the waiting changes us and we have a choice about how we wait. At first we might wait with impatient bitterness and a tendency to turn in on ourselves. The waiting itself can become such a distraction that we ruin the good things that are around us while we wait, with our anxiety and lack of trust in God.
Or sometimes we are changed for the better while we wait. We might realise that we’ve been given time to see things clearly, to see what matters, to notice other things that are important other than just getting to the front of the queue. There can be a humility in waiting which can make us more outward-looking and understanding of others who also wait. We might find ourselves hoping more and trusting that, since we seek His will, God is guiding us. Perhaps we remember times when He has helped us in the past, and has given us the grace to bear other difficult times of waiting. We need to be prepared too, to rely on things which will keep us going in case the wait is longer than we might like: to rely on friends and family, on community, on prayer, to do more of what nourishes us and less of what damages us. We might not know what will happen or if we’ll get that for which we wait, but how we wait matters and shapes what kind of people we will become. In this week when we celebrate The Triumph of the Holy Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows, we’re reminded that Christ’s Blessed Mother had to wait at the foot of the Cross and through other difficult times, not always knowing exactly what would happen. We can ask her to pray for us in our times of waiting and know that she is very close to us.

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