I was in A&E for quite a few hours. All rooms were occupied and beds were in hallways inching along one wall then the next wall like aeroplanes waiting to lift off. I was standing next to a bed talking and getting out of the way as hospital staff, patients and family came past. It was rather chaotic (but full credit to the hospital staff for their professionalism) and we could see that there was nothing to do but wait. When the person I was with or the hospital needed something, I went and did it. But then I returned to my place next to the bed – waiting.
I drove past a broken down car on the opposite of the A14. I could see people perched, as it were, on the embankment quite a way above the car. I groaned out load – and said a quick prayer. The tableau said it all to me. A man standing hands on hips feeling helpless. A woman sitting on the grass concentrating downwards to what she was holding. And a baby being rocked and I could almost hear the gentle and hopeful ‘Ssshhh … ssshhh … it’ll be ok’. The three were waiting. I hope they didn’t wait long.
Waiting around. I dare say we don’t like it or at best we tolerate it. I suspect that generally speaking it is not the goal of each day. “Oh, let’s see what my day is about? Oh goody … waiting around!” While we might understand it in queues and the like, we’d simply prefer not to wait around.
My laptop is getting old – like its owner! – and there are times when I press a key and it ‘freezes’ but has the courtesy to tell me ‘Not responding’. I have learnt that no matter how often I tap the key again – how fast or hard – I have to wait. Yes, it’s frustrating and I should do something about it but for now when the machine is in a ‘go slow’ mood, I have learnt to have a second job ready which I can turn to for the few minutes rather than waiting.
We are in an in-between time. It is after Jesus’ ascension and before Pentecost. Just prior his ascension, Jesus told his followers to ‘stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49). We now know this to be 10 days. But they didn’t know that then. The previous nine days probably began in anticipation and ended with a hope for tomorrow. One of the issues of history is that we bring our knowledge of what happened next to the situation. When you’re living in the situation you just have the day, the moment, the circumstance, and your choices about your behaviour.
Waiting is often a reminder that we are not in total control. But we can control our responses to the situation. I have learnt at times when waiting to ‘look around’ – yes, things for a moment are not happening as I had planned but is God wanting me to see something, notice someone, consider or reconsider my behaviour. Often the waiting moment becomes a learning moment or a serving moment or a praying moment – and suddenly waiting is a wasted moment.
And that’s part of what Jesus’ ascension is all about. Realising that in each day we don’t have to go to Jesus but in fact he is with his people – and that can make even waiting a very interesting time. GS