Flying has been a part of my life since I was very young. At three weeks old I had my first passport and at 14 months old boarded my first flight. The deeper into ministry I get, the more frequently I seem to fly and the longer flights seem to become.
To my family and myself flying comes with, if not enjoyment, at least ease. Because of this ease we all have a tendency to wait until the last minute to board. I remember my mother, queen of puns, always saying “Why hurry up and wait?” People are often in such a hurry when their boarding group is called that they rush into line, to rush past the counter simply to find themselves waiting on the gangplank.
“Hurry up and wait.” I often feel like I am trapped in a vacuum of waiting. There always seems to be something I am anxiously waiting upon, whether to go on a trip, go home, get married, or the worst waiting to finish a conversation or interaction with someone so I can get on to whatever it is I would rather be doing.
This spring I decided to begin walking down the path of becoming a licensed midwife, who specializes in practicing in third-world rural communities. What do you think of when you think of birth? Pain, blood and guts, a babies head crowning? Maybe it is something you simply prefer not to think about, and I wouldn’t blame you. But what I didn’t think of when I thought of birth was the waiting because I like action.
American Football is often made fun of by non-football fans because for every 3-5 minutes of time there is only maybe 10-40 seconds of play. It’s those seconds of play, the sounds of pads hitting and passes connecting that we football fans live for. We sit through hours of waiting for those seconds and we love it.
Birth in comparison to football is, how we say in Hawai’i “same same but different”. Compared to the nine months spent waiting, there really isn’t a lot of “action” (although I wouldn’t suggest saying that to a mom who is in labor for 12+ hours).
A large part of birth is a waiting game. Waiting for your baby to develop, for contractions to start and increase, waiting for the moment where you get to hold your child for the very first time. Waiting can be frustrating, but it is also essential to life. If we didn’t wait nine months for the baby to grow and develop then there would be no life at all. Learning to be good at waiting is lesson I keep on learning. But what does being “good at waiting” even mean?
For me it means being present. It breaks my heart to think how many days I have probably spent where waiting overwhelmed my ability to be present. Back in college I would wake up, usually before 6am, for practice and I would look at my watch and calculate how long it would be till I could nap or return to bed. I woke up each day so tired I couldn’t wait for bed. We have all had meetings, classes etc that we can’t wait to get out of, it’s understandable.
But what truly breaks my heart is the times I haven’t been present in a conversation. Where the person who sat talking to me only had a fraction of my attention because I couldn’t wait get away to do something else or speak to someone else. What that tells me is that I am still lacking the ability to truly love others more than myself. If I truly loved the person talking to me, whether a stranger or a closest friend then I wouldn’t mind waiting for my next activity, I could be present and truly listen to them.
When asked what was the most important commandment Jesus responded:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
That is huge. Jesus is basically putting into the simplest terms possible, the meaning of life. The first commandment is to love God, should be the one thing that directs everything in our lives. “Love others as yourself”. There are so many ways to love others, so many actions we can take but the risk is that sometimes actions and giving can still come from a place that is not love. Jesus talks about loving your neighbor though out the New Testament from giving them the coat off your back to carrying their pack an extra mile. In my life, I find those kinds of actions come more naturally to me and don’t demand the same kind of love that is needed to really truly sit and listen to someone and be present before them.
I need to constantly ask myself am I listening to the story they are telling me? Or am I so impatient for them to end their story so that I can tell my somewhat-related story or advice, that I am barely listening. Am I present? Being present in the waiting times even as simply as waiting as someone shares their story and in the action is something I am striving for, and for me a big part of it comes from first truly learning to love. There are small things you can do the next time you have a conversation with someone that can help you be present, such as turning your phone on silent and putting it away, making a list of all you need to do before you meet them so those things are out of your head and on paper and no doubt many more tips. But until our hearts and in the right place and we truly learn to love they will simply be tips. Does someone walk away from a conversation with you feeling like they were the most important thing on your mind during that time? If they were the most important thing during your time with them then they will feel that genuine love.
My prayer is that God will continue to give me the ability to love others and that I will keep practicing listening and being present. I pray that waiting won’t overwhelm me but that the love of God with overflow from my heart and onto those I come into contact with.
I challenge you to be present in your own lives this week, to practice truly loving the people all around you and to become an expert at waiting.