I have a confession to make. I was a Ferberizer. If you aren’t familiar with this term, a Ferberizer is a person who prescribes to Dr. Ferber’s approach for training an infant to sleep. When I think back on those early years with my children, the newborn stage was, by far, the most difficult for me. You see, I adore sleep and have generally been very good at it, sleeping on average seven to nine hours a night. Going from a healthy, luxurious eight hours of sleep, to sleeping three hours before being awoken by a cute, tight-fisted, red-faced, screaming narcissist was a nightmare. Within a month’s time, I was transformed from a relatively fashionable, semi-capable human being, to an unkempt, smelly, baggy-eyed, babbling zombie, which is why I was a Ferberizer. It was imperative that I find the quickest way back to my cozy bed and the sweetest of dreams. You can read all about Ferber and his methods here, but essentially, when it was time for your babe’s beddy-bye, you placed your little one in the crib awake. The premise was that the child needed to learn to fall asleep on his own and self soothe, if need be, without any cuddling, rocking, or excessive bum patting on the part of the parent. Inevitably, the crying would begin. The parent was to wait an increment of time and then go in and give their offspring a few gentle pats of reassurance and exit the room once more and continue doing this until the child went to sleep. Eventually, the kid, squawking, waiting for his mother’s return would think, “Aw, nuts, she’s not coming back and this is exhausting” and he’d peter out into a restful slumber. Sometimes, this worked perfectly and sometimes it was an agonizing waiting game, but whatever you think of this method, I believe it taught my children a valuable lesson: sometimes, in life, one has to wait.
We start our lives waiting, waiting for someone to come and feed us, clean up our dirty bottoms, wipe our tears, and hold us until we feel relaxed and content. Later, we wait for our birthdays to come round, for Santa Claus to show with his big bag of toys, for the Easter bunny to scatter his chocolaty eggs, and for the tooth fairy to drop by for the exchange of enamel and coinage. Soon enough, we’ll wait on that first, crisp, fall day of school, we’ll wait for our marks to come back, for our crushes to answer our silly, scrawled love notes, and for summer vacation to start. We’ll wait for our chance to grip the wheel and get ourselves to and from, to walk across a stage and receive recognition for 12 years of hard work, and to take that first sip of adulthood from a bottle or a can. At this point, our waiting has only just begun.
As we enter into the busyness of adult life, we’ll wait on more weighty things, job interviews and offers, marriage proposals and wedding days, pregnancies and births. Our waiting will be more meaningful and often, more stressful, but we’ll also still have to wait on all the countless, seemingly inconsequential things that siphon off our time and make us feel like we spend our lives waiting. We have rooms set up specifically for waiting. At the doctor’s office, we wait when we check in and then we’re ushered into the examination room to wait some more. We wait in lines to get to where we want to go and to buy the things we need. We wait for sporting events, movies, concerts, and plays to start. We yawn through and wait for boring lectures, speeches, and sermons to end. Many of us go from waiting 30 minutes for the bus to sitting for hours in gridlock on a freeway or on a layover in an airport. We women, for obvious reasons, wait in longer lines than men to relieve ourselves.
The how we wait is as important as why we wait. Some people choose to wait productively, to use their waiting time to catch up on the latest novel or complete paperwork or engage their mind doing Sudoku or crossword puzzles. With the advent of the smartphone, the internet in our purses and pockets, it’s easy to stalk our family and friends on social media, read the latest trending article, or watch that goofy viral video when we have a moment of repose. Unfortunately, waiting isn’t always benign. Sometimes, our waiting is laced with excitement as we anticipate a rewarding outcome, but sometimes waiting is soured by uncomfortable emotions. Sometimes, we must wait for those who are chronically late and their lack of consideration for our time is frustrating and we stew and grow angrier the longer we wait. Other times, we must wait to confront someone we believe has wronged us and the waiting is fraught with anxiety and trepidation. The same would be true as we wait for a doctor’s diagnosis and the possibility of bad news. Still other times, our waiting is marred by sadness as we hope and pray and wait while a child of ours tears down a destructive path or as we wait and watch a loved one suffer at the end of life.
These are hard times of waiting, when we must wait helplessly, having done all we could, and when the outcome isn’t up to us, but is still very important to us. It’s where the fruit of patience, a fruit that is often in short supply in our lives, is developed. For me, as a Christian, this is the time I must wait on God. If I truly believe that he loves me and wants what’s best for me, I’ll give the outcome over to him and stay close to him in my waiting. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” He promises his unexplainable peace where fear and stress and sadness would normally rule, a peace that doesn’t fit the gravity of our circumstances, a fierce, protective peace that will stand watch over our hearts and minds. If this is true, we’d be fools not to wait on him in all of life. Why would we choose upset, and often ensuing illness, over peace? Maybe, because there’s nothing more we can do, getting upset is our last bid at trying to control the situation. We’d be smart to let go of the illusion of control, to admit that we aren’t very good at waiting, and to allow God to exchange our burdens for peace and rest.
There’s one particular type of waiting that I’ve practiced, quite successfully, for the bulk of my existence, much to my dismay. I’m often a spectator of my own life. I wait for life to happen to me, rather than carefully crafting the life I long for. I wrote a song about it once entitled, “Wishing”. The chorus illustrates this point perfectly.
I don’t wanna spend my life wishing
And never really living
Wishing I was somewhere else
Wishing I was someone else
I don’t wanna spend my life waiting for something to happen
Hoping for another day
Throwing my whole life away
Oh, I’m an expert dreamer, but not much of a doer and you’ve heard this before, if you’ve been following my blog. For me, there’s a disconnect between the wish and the wish fulfillment, but I know that wishes are rubbish, if they don’t come to pass, not something to build your life on, and God intended me to be a vibrant, fully-functioning, world-changing human being, not a hunched over bench-warmer. If I believe in a God who is all-powerful, a God who raised his son from the dead, a God who does miracles, a God who says emphatically, “all things are possible”, then I must believe that my lack of motivation, my reticence to take responsibility, my fickle commitment, my shoddy attempts, my mistakes, and my failures can be redeemed by the one who loves me and gifted me and is transforming me, even in my half-hearted yielding. Praise him, who knows are frailties and, yet, loves and uses us still! Not unlike my babies, as they waited in their beds for me to return, calling out for comfort, I wait on my Lord’s saving. But unlike my babies, I wait actively on the one who promises to complete the work he started in me some 46 years ago. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:52 that upon Christ’s return, in the twinkling of an eye, we who love and follow him shall all be changed for good. I can hardly wait.
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