I sat there in the same clothes I had been wearing that morning for what was supposed to be a quick hike with my family, waiting and watching the clock as hour after hour went by without any update from a doctor. Somewhere in the 2 am range, I started to feel like I was going to lose my mind, so I stood up and walked down one hall, and then another, until I found myself right outside the doors of the Operating Room. We were in a tiny hospital in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico. Earlier that day, my husband of a little over a year had fallen from a 30-foot cliff while rock climbing. I was there. I heard the screams. My mom and I did what we could to cover and hopefully save his foot, which was almost completely ripped from his leg and bones were broken and sticking out everywhere. We waited first for a mountain rescue team and then rode a long two hours in an ambulance just to get to this little hospital. Now I was just waiting... waiting for an answer that felt like it was never going to come, waiting to see his face again, to know he was alive and we’d be okay, waiting... endlessly waiting... until I couldn’t take it anymore so I walked until I found the very room where they were putting my husband back together on a cold metal table in the middle of the night.
There was no one there to stop me from bursting into the OR to see for myself that he was still alive, because that was the fear that was haunting me with every hour that passed. “What if I lose him? What if he dies tonight? He’s the love of my life, Lord... I just found him! I can’t lose him!” Everything in me wanted to go through that door, to move out of the helplessness and vulnerability of the waiting room into a place where I felt like I had control.
It was the Holy Spirit who stopped me. It was just an internal nudge to take a step back and turn my eyes to Him instead. And I heard something like a whisper in my heart saying, “do you trust Me?”
All I wanted was to know that he was going to be okay. I didn’t just want answers; I wanted the “right” answers. But the one thing I have learned in decades of waiting is that our greatest treasure and hope is not in the answers we most desire, but in the One we cling to in the midst of the waiting. So I stayed on my side of the OR doors, and though tears fell from my eyes, my soul fought to find peace in trusting the kindness and faithfulness of the One who was on both sides of that door with us.
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)
Hours later I finally got to see his face again; and though he had a long road ahead of him and his leg would never be the same, he was alive and that’s what mattered most. But I can’t help but think that there was something more important and eternal that happened in those long hours of waiting and clinging to Jesus that dark night.
We are a results oriented culture. The motivation for success and for instantaneous results has become so entrenched in the theology of the Church in the West that it sometimes feels like the Christianity of the early church has been replaced with a “how to” self-help ideology for happy living and success. We only need to turn on our televisions or look on Amazon for the latest Christian book that tells us the magic formula for how to have our best lives and all the positive outcomes we desire now(emphasis on the now). “How to pray to get results” seems more important than the One to whom we are praying.
But the waiting rooms of this age are where all of our magic formulas for success are stripped away and only one question remains, a question that Jesus asked several times as He walked with His disciples on the dusty roads of Israel long ago: “who do you say that Iam?”
Who is Jesus and what is He to us? If He is a means to a happy ending here on earth, then when our happy endings and desired circumstances don’t play out as we expected or as we have prayed, our love for Him falls through the little cracks of our broken theology. But if Jesus is the end, if all our searching and longings begin and end with Christ alone, then we will never be disappointed. Whether everything works out perfectly or everything falls apart, we can cry out with the saints of old, “Blessed be His Name,” because Jesus alone is our portion and reward.
The waiting room is always about Jesus. Ultimately, the Bride of Christ both in heaven and on the earth is watching and waiting for that Day when the sky will break open and He will come to make all things new and right again as our Bridegroom, King and Judge. When Jesus told the Father just before the Cross that His desire was for us to be with Him where He is and to behold His glory (John 17:24), there was a Day in His heart when He knew we would be face to face with Him in the Holy City on the earth, and we would see with unveiled eyes the Son in all His glory and be with Him forever. But Jesus also desired that we would behold Him in the waiting rooms of this age.
Waiting is not a passive word. It does not mean sitting on one’s hands and passing the time until that Day. Waiting literally means hoping, and hope only comes by beholding the beauty of Jesus Christ and hearing His words. This is why we often see the words waiting and watching together, and why many of the passages about waiting in the Bible are followed by descriptions of who God is and with language of seeing His beauty and beholding His goodness. Waiting and watching are acts of love.
Though we may not see Jesus outwardly yet, we have been given different eyes with which to see Him rightly – the eyes of our hearts and the life within. The hidden person within (1 Pet. 3:3-4, Rom. 7:22, 2 Cor 4:16, Eph 3:16, or Col 3:1-3) has eyes to see and ears to hear, and we must learn to use both if we want our hearts to be steady and full of hope in the waiting rooms of our lives. There is a feast laid out before us — a banqueting table of the knowledge of God and the beauty of His heart. It is ours for the taking, but we must give our eyes and ears to Him to find our way through the deception, darkness and dullness that surrounds us and seeks to crush our hopes into something smaller and worth so much less than Jesus Himself.
When all of our waiting is wrapped up in the God who could have done anything He wanted with a people lost in their own sin and darkness, but chose to leave His throne and clothe Himself in flesh made of dust so that we could know Him and be with Him forever; then no matter what lies on the other side of the doorways of this age, our hope is sure and our hearts are full. Our outer man may waste away, but our inner man is renewed every day, growing from strength to strength (Ps. 84:5-7) and glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18). And we are able to sing with the psalmist:
Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26)
The waiting room is a room I am all too familiar with but it has become a room I have learned to be eternally grateful for rather than to despise. It is here in this very room that Jesus can be found and adored… for He alone is worth the wait.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:13-14)
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)