Why are we waiting?

Sun 22 March 2015

It’s funny how everyone hates waiting. Waiting for the post to come; waiting for the children to get ready; waiting for the lights to change; waiting for the rain to stop; waiting for the war to end, for the fever to abate, for the abuse to stop; waiting for someone to show that they care. And while we wait we sigh, we squirm, we drum our fingers, we pace up and down – anything to vent our frustration at having to wait.

Our frustrations are understandable; and yet certain kinds of waiting are unavoidable in the course of life, and a particular attitude to waiting is central to any serious spiritual practice. So what is it that makes enforced waiting so hard to bear?

Waiting reminds us of our dependence. When we wait, we are no longer all-important, or self-sufficient, because what we need is not ours to grasp or control. We just have to wait.

Wise people learn and grow through waiting, uncomfortable though the experience may be. We practise wisdom in the regular spiritual disciplines of waiting: in the commitment to silent prayer, or quiet vigil, or periods of reflection and retreat. But transferring the lessons from these chosen religious practices to the unchosen and challenging waiting periods of everyday life is far from straightforward.

Rev Dr Margaret Whipp


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