When I Have to Means I Have to Wait
Wait. Just the sound of that word rolling off my tongue turns my stomach a bit and makes me clench up. Wait is defined by the dictionary as “to remain inactive or in a state of repose, as until something unexpected happens.” I would add to that definition: remaining inactive until something expected happens. Like waiting in line for a ride, a vacation, a promotion, or whatever it might be. Whether what you’re waiting for is on your radar or in the furthest stratosphere of your mind, the process can feel torturous, can’t it? And yet, it also often seems that at every turn in the road there lies another reason to wait. I’m speaking both literally and figuratively here. Perhaps you strive for months to get pregnant and then, once with child, you wait nine months before you get to meet your little one. You have an architect draw up a plan for your long-awaited home renovation and then wait for months before the project actually comes to fruition. You put a pot of water on the stove and wait for what seems like sixty minutes—in reality, six—for it to come to a boil. The list goes on and on. Hurry up and wait, and then hurry up and wait some more.
Remember when you were a kid and your life was just a series of activities or events to be waited for? . . . I can’t wait until the weekend because I’m sleeping over at my friend’s house. . . . I can’t wait until next month because we’re going on family vacation. . . . I can’t wait until I’m 10 because then I’ll be in double digits! . . . I can’t wait until I’m done with high school because it’s so lame. You get my point. And now, as an adult, you’re wondering what all the rush was about? Now, you wish you could tell time to slow down and it would actually listen to you!
What I’m realizing, at the ripe old age of thirty-two, is sometimes the sweetest moments lie in the waiting. We took our oldest two boys to New York City the week just before Halloween 2014. It was the trip of a lifetime, the kind you depart from with both the deep satisfaction that comes from knowing you gave it all you had, and then the acute depression that comes from knowing you will never be able to replicate the experience, not in a million years. We did it all: Rockefeller Center, ice skating in Central Park, FAO Schwarz, a boat cruise around the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, a Broadway show—you name it, we did it. Ask my boys what their favorite part was and they will most likely list off a few of the above activities, but they’ll also tell you one of the highlights was riding the subway. This is in part because the NYC subway, for a couple of Phoenix-born boys, is an eye-opening and enthralling experience in and of itself. But it’s also because when we rode the subway, we played all manner of games as a family. We were handcuffed to the moment, stuck together in the in-between, and forced to hold still and hold tight to each other.
So this week, we are going to talk about what happens when God calls you to do something and then makes you . . . wait. When the green light in front of you turns red and, for whatever reason—most of which we cannot know but for hindsight—your “I have to” becomes an “I have to wait.”