It's hard to wait, but life gives us many opportunities to do just that. Sometimes it's simple waits, like, waiting in line at the Post Office when the line is moving ever so slowly, waiting for the green light at an extra busy intersection when you are running late, waiting for food to arrive at a slow restaurant when you feel famished, or waiting to find a gas station when the gas gage on your dashboard says your car is running on empty.
Some of life's waits are more challenging, like waiting to hear if you got the job. Waiting for the right person to come into your life you hope is going to love you forever. Waiting to get pregnant or to close on an adoption. Waiting for your adolescent to get home when it's night and a storm is raging outside, and they're a new driver, running late. Waiting for your adult son or daughter or your partner to come home from being deployed to a war-torn country. Waiting for the opportunity to apply for Social Security and Medicare when you are not quite old enough for it, yet your job has ended and the likelihood of finding another is slim due to your age.
And some waits are about catastrophic things, like, waiting to hear back regarding the results of some medical tests, whether cancerous or benign. Sitting in Hospice, waiting at the bedside of a loved one who will soon be taking their last breath. Waiting to receive the words that, "You can return now," to your neighborhood hit by a tornado, wildfire or some other major disaster. In some places in the world, waiting for the sounds of nighttime gunshots to stop and a war to end that seems to have no ending.
Right now, as a nation, we are in the middle of waiting, and yes, it is hard...
Waiting for a Pandemic to end: so businesses can fully open, so lost jobs are regained, and mortgages and rent can be paid and food be put back on tables; for the economy to recover; for a vaccine to become available; for children and teachers to again safely return to in-person school; for life to get back to "normal" and we can engage in close social activities again.
Waiting for a particularly rancorous election to be over: so the anxiety will be eliminated about who our next president will be; so that, hopefully, the blaming and name calling can diminish and the polarization and political fractures currently so rampant in our nation might start to heal.
Waiting for social justice to happen for all: so that people of all skin colors, ethnicity, religion, sex, and age can have "freedom and justice for all;" so no one is a recipient of bigotry, discrimination, or marginalization...a wait that continues to be extremely long for some.
So, what can you do in the waiting? There are no easy answers for something so complex, but at the risk of sounding overly simplistic and idealistic, here are some things you can do as you wait:
1. Acknowledge your true feelings. Feeling stressed, anxious, sad, or angry can be normal reactions to abnormal situations. Notice what you are doing with your feelings. Are you judging and criticizing yourself for something that feels like a mistake or failure? Are you dumping your feelings onto other people? It's ok to have negative feelings, but neither self-criticism, nor venting them onto others will help you get through the wait. In the long run, it just makes it worse.
2. Protect your heart and mind. Take an occasional break from watching the News and using Social Media. There is a lot of "all or nothing" thinking expressed in the Media (for example, "The Republicans are all good and the Democrats are all bad," or "The Democrats are all good and the Republicans are all bad."). "All or Nothing" thinking is like a Cul de Sac. It won't really lead anywhere or solve any problems. There are also a lot of negative, worried, scared, conspiratorial, or toxic voices out there right now demanding you listen to them and take action on behalf of their chosen cause. Evaluate what is right for you, then say, "No," if your heart is not drawn to it, or, "Yes," if supporting that cause really resonates with you. You get to decide what is beneficial for your heart and mind to take in, what voices you will listen to, and what causes you want to support.
3. Learn how to challenge negative beliefs you hold about yourself and to embrace God's grace for your mistakes and human weaknesses. As hard as it may be to believe in yourself when everything in your life is unraveling, keep reminding yourself that you are made in the image of God, that you have been designed by the God of the Universe to be exactly who you are and for a particular purpose, and that you are cared for deeply no matter what you are going through currently, or no matter how badly you think you are failing. Even if your prayers just seem to echo back to you, keep trusting that these things are true.. The grace that God offers is way bigger than what any of us can imagine, so begin to learn how to accept that grace, and then seek to give that same kind of grace to yourself. Immanuel Prayer might be a good resource for you in helping you learn how to do that.
4. Challenge yourself to extend that same grace to others. First, ask the Spirit to shine a light on your own biases and prejudices that you, consciously or unconsciously, believe about others who are different than you or who believe differently than you. Just because someone is different or thinks differently than you does not take away from the idea that every person out there, regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, or political party, are also deeply loved by God and are worthy of being treated with kindness and respect. Offering someone else grace gives you greater internal permission to embrace God's grace for yourself, as well as it being a healing force in a world full of social injustice.
5. Learn and practice the art of self-compassion. Many people regularly hear a voice in their head critiquing or finding fault with them. You have the right to refute that voice, no matter who it echoes. A lot of people also struggle to give themselves compassion, kindness, and encouragement, yet they may easily give it to someone else. If you are one of those people, the good news is that you have neurological pathways already developed in your brain oriented toward giving kindness, encouragement, and compassion, and so, it is possible to learn how to give it to yourself. Self-compassion is one of the foundational building blocks to personal resiliency.
6. Look for ways of turning a difficult situation into an adventure. Challenge yourself to learn something new. Everyday, look for beauty. At the end of the day, write in a journal what was the very best thing you saw, heard, or experienced that day. In order to activate neural pathways associated with feeling good, recall as many pleasant memories as you can, and then make a list of all the sights, sounds, smells tastes, physical sensations, and emotions you associate with each of those memories. Take this opportunity to simplify your life and clean out what no longer serves you or feeds your soul. Seek to stay in community, even if it means eating dinner with a friend via Zoom. Evaluate what you value most and give more of your attention to that. There are many creative options available, but probably the most important one is to remind yourself that, yes, the difficult circumstances and the long wait can all be an adventure, even if it is simply an adventure in learning to trust God more with your life and future.
So, as you wait, may God grant you whatever you need of a tangible nature...a job, a place to live, food, finances to pay bills, patience with your kids as they do online school, or whatever that might be. Emotionally, may you be strengthened to keep on keeping on, may you have freedom from fear, and rest/restoration when you feel overwhelmed. Spiritually, may you receive His peace when nothing around you feels peaceful, may you be able to remain grounded in His love that is in you and all around you. And may you feel a deep sense of God's presence walking with you through this, being a source of guidance, protection, comfort, and strength.
Blessings, Vicki Eaton