I’m a terribly impatient person and I don’t look for opportunities to delay gratification. But over the last six years and several seasons of my life, I’ve come to believe that waiting itself is sacramental. It cultivates patience and prepares the heart for what is to come. It forces me to come to terms with how little control I have over my life’s circumstances–and, more important yet–to find peace despite that lack of control.
I’ve often felt that women do a disproportionate amount of waiting when it comes to love and relationships. Though today we may feel less bound to the traditions of past eras, many of the conventions of love still seem to hold. Most of the time, women wait for men to approach and pursue them. Then, they wait for him to be ready to pop the question and commit.
I think about this a lot because I am not at all a patient person, and I’m married to someone who moves slow when I go fast. It took months for him to confess that he liked me and wanted to start dating me, and what felt like far too long before he was ready to propose. In fact, I was so anxious and concerned about how slow he was moving that I pressured him to ask me to marry him–only to realize soon after that I was the one who was not ready and ultimately break off our engagement for a time to give it more thought.
But it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my daughter that I began to think of waiting as a practice with its own beauty and significance. Time never seems to move so slow as when you’re sick and tired in the first trimester of a pregnancy and realize you have 30 long more weeks to go.
The 40 weeks of pregnancy is such a long time. And with each passing week, you get bigger, less comfortable, more expectant. Sometimes the raw anticipation of meeting the person who is kicking and turning within you is so intense it seems unbearable. And with all our medical advances, there is just no way to rush that period of gestation. There is nothing to do but pray, practice patience, and pop antacids.
And this is for a reason. As I began to feel my daughter kick and see my belly swell with her growth, I prayed she would grow strong, with courage and kindness. I meditated on what my child would need of me to become all that she could be in an often unfriendly world. I prepared her room, pouring love into the walls and filling the bookshelves with books. Until the very end, I hoped that she would come a little early and spare me the last week or two of waiting, but I had also made my peace with the wait.
If I had been able to better cultivate that peace while my husband and I were dating, I could have spared myself and him tears and angst.
Of course, it’s hard to find comfort when you’re facing the hardest kind of waiting: the kind without a foreseeable end. If you’re longing for a relationship and not in one, or longing for a child and don’t have one, the waiting and not knowing can feel like torture. Any well-meant advice about enjoying and valuing the season can feel cruel on a hard day. I’ve been single and I’ve felt some of that pain.
But even if you cannot embrace the time of waiting, perhaps there is encouragement in knowing that it is not a time of stagnation, but becoming — you are more patient, wise, prepared, intentional for the time spent in what seemed like a holding pattern.
By way of encouragement, few waits last forever. As I hold my ten-month-old daughter and look forward to my third anniversary with my husband, the times of anxious longing seem, not brief, but so very temporary in light of what has followed. I’m glad I’ve begun to see the beauty in learning to wait.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Theodoris N