We hate to wait, but we must

waiting dog at window

Wait. Few words are less welcome.

Nobody likes to sit around and wait. Whether it’s for an appointment or for traffic or even for something delightful like a favorite holiday or a big trip or a baby being born. We may not mind having to wait at first, but after that, we get antsy and impatient and want what we are waiting for to happen…right now! 

Tom Petty sang it so simply, The waiting is the hardest part.” We just hate that “in-between” feeling that comes in the middle of where we are and where we want to be. Most of our time isn’t Friday night gatherings or once a year birthday celebrations. We don’t spend the majority of time on vacation or getting married or having children. Rather, most of it is spent in the “in between.” The waiting.

Waiting is liminal space

Another word for the “in between” is liminal space. In an article titled “Grieving as Sacred Space,” Richard Rohr defines liminal space as “a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them.”

He adds: “It is when you have left the “tried and true” but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are in between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer… If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait—you will run… Anything to flee from this terrible “cloud of unknowing.”

Even though we hate waiting because it’s unknown and uncomfortable, it make us anxious and ready to get going, or even make us want to run away, few experiences have as much potential to change us for the better. Waiting gets a bad rap, but growth happens in the waiting. Change happens in the waiting. Good happens in the waiting. 

As Paul Tripp writes, “Waiting is not about what you get at the end of the wait; it’s about what you become as you wait.” 

How to wait a little easier

In this season of waiting, holding our breath as we await the outcome of the 2020 election, looking for COVID to be eradicated, wondering what will happen to businesses and schools and social life when winter comes, and ready to get to Thanksgiving and Christmas and the end of this crazy year, all we can do is try to wait patiently.

If you are engaged in anxious, prolonged, and perhaps painful waiting, consider these tips to help you find some good in this liminal “in between” time.

  1. Find someone to wait with you. As Pooh says to Piglet, “It’s so much friendlier with two.” Of course, no one can fully share the agony of your waiting, but having a trusted friend, mentor, therapist, or spiritual director along with you on your journey can help tremendously.
  2. Keep a journal. You don’t want to miss the lessons of this time, and journaling can help you sort out your thoughts.
  3. Be kind to yourself. Eat right, sleep well, exercise. It’s easy to feel sorry for ourselves when these times come, but falling into bad health habits will not help you weather this storm. Think of the waiting as a spiritual marathon, and keep up your training.
  4. Don’t be a turtle. Sometimes, when things are hard, pulling away from others and into a protective shell can be a natural instinct. But what you really need when you’re waiting is a community. Reach out to your friends. The journey will be lighter with friends to help support and encourage you.
  5. Focus on being present. Hold an intention to be aware, to turn inward and be in tune with your body and your emotions, to be conscious of the moment, a space where the Divine is always present. 

Remember, the Divine does some of their best work in deserts, cocoons, waiting rooms, and tombs. Don’t fear this liminal space. Embrace it!

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tzu


What’s helped you get through times of waiting in the past? What’s helping you now?

Quiet Pods at Soul Care are a great space to practice journaling, prayer, meditation, and self-care. Our facility helps you stay calm and centered during any period of waiting. Our community Kindred Souls can be a great group to connect during these challenging times.


5 thoughts on “We hate to wait, but we must”

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