I've been struggling with waiting lately, so today I looked up the definition: To allow time to go by, especially while staying in one place without doing very much, until someone comes, until something that you are expecting happens or until you can do something (The Cambridge English Dictionary).
Waiting is something we're very familiar with as parents of children (and adult children) with disabilities:
We wait for a diagnosis.
We wait to find the best doctors and therapists.
We wait in waiting rooms to see those doctors and therapists.
We wait for healing. We wait for first words; first steps; first dry night; first day—or hour!—without a meltdown; first motorized wheelchair or accessible van; first church that not only accepts but celebrates our child. The list goes on and on.
Waiting, or Stuck?
Waiting sometimes feels very much like being stuck, doesn't it? This part of the definition speaks to that stuck feeling: staying in one place without doing very much, until someone comes, until something that you are expecting happens or until you can do something.
Until someone comes. Until something happens. Until you can do something.
My husband and I have been in major waiting mode for the past three months. Our adult son, Joel, who has autism, normally loves going to church. I blogged about that just last month in Church for Every Child: Your Child is Welcome Here. But it's been three months now since Joel has been able to attend church. The first month it was because of an extended manic swing. The last two months it's been because our church moved to a new building. Transitions have never been easy for Joel, but this one has been crazy-hard. Joel absolutely refuses to enter the new building for Sunday service.
We’ve worked at easing the transition. We set up a couple of meetings, mid-week, for Joel to walk through the building with our pastor, whom Joel loves dearly. We set up a daily chore schedule for Joel in the new building. He seems to enjoy being there during the week, but on Sunday mornings? He refuses to enter, or when he does enter, refuses to stay.
What God Says About Waiting
Three months is a long time not to go to church. I am growing impatient. Frustrated. Mildly depressed. Dare I say, a little hopeless.
Today, as I did a word search and a scripture search on the word “wait,” I experienced the proverbial AHA! moment. It happened while I was reading Romans 8:22-28 in The Message translation:
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:22-28 (The Message)
Did you catch that? We are pregnant with waiting. There is a space within us just waiting to be filled with more of God. We are enlarged in the waiting! The Holy Spirit is praying for us when we're tired of praying or when we don't have the words to pray.
I was totally blown away by this concept.
If I can grasp this, for even a moment, on those Sundays spent driving around in the car instead of worshipping with our friends at church, I will allow just a little more of God’s Spirit to grow within me. I can have a conversation with God about how I feel. I can pray for patience and forbearance. I can pray for illumination on how to help Joel through this transition. I can look for what God is growing within me in the midst of this season.
Philippians 4:6 brought more light into my dark Monday: Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4:6 (The Message)
New Season, New Growth
I’m not there yet. But it takes nine months to carry a baby to term, right? God is reminding me to be patient with myself, even as He is patient with me.
I'm renewed today, knowing that new life is growing within me during this waiting time. A new life of resting in the goodness of God’s plans for Joel’s life—for my life—for my family’s life. I hold on to these words from Psalm 27 even as I picture myself pregnant with waiting:
Yet I totally trust you to rescue me one more time,
so that I can see once again how good you are while I’m still alive!
Here’s what I’ve learned through it all:
Don’t give up; don’t be impatient;
be entwined as one with the Lord.
Be brave and courageous, and never lose hope.
Yes, keep on waiting—for he will never disappoint you! Psalm 27:13-14 (The Passion)
Thoughts to Ponder: For what do you find yourself waiting today? How does this metaphor of waiting as pregnancy, as a time of enlargement, speak into that situation?
Kathleen Bolduc is the mother of three sons and one daughter of heart, the youngest of whom is an adult son with autism. Kathy is a spiritual director, co-founder of Cloudland, a contemplative retreat center, and the author of The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities and Autism & Alleluias. She can be reached through her website: kathleenbolduc.com