The Waiting Game: Making Peace With the Holy Hesitation

With four kids at home, the phrase “just a minute” has become my diatribe. I’m not necessarily proud of it, but there it is. 

“Murphy’s Law” around our house is that everyone seems perfectly independent until the stars align in some sort of cataclysmic ambush and everyone needs something from me all at once. Lots of needs. One Mommy. Impossible math.

Just yesterday, my feisty little 9-year-old wanted me to paint her nails. (I told her she couldn’t watch TV, so that meant she looked to me for stimulation. It’s the risk I run.) And she wanted them done immediately! The only problem was that she lost the privilege of doing them by herself due to a certain unsupervised nail polish incident on the bathroom floor. Think LOTS of rags reeking of acetone to clean up that mess. As such, she needed a house certified technician to complete the glamorous french manicure she envisioned. 

That meant she needed yours truly.

And of course I wasn’t lounging around looking for something to do (shocker) —  I was cooking dinner (admittedly another shocker).

“Mom, mom, mom…,” she jumped up and down next to the stove and shoved her nails in my face. “Are they dry yet?! Can you check?!”

“Honey, can you please wait? I’m cooking dinner. I'll check them in a minute.” (Not sure I used such a sweet tone, but I prefer to remember it that way.)

“But, Moooooommmmmm! Pleeeeaaase! It will only take a minute. Can you just touch them and see if they’re dry? Seriously. It will only take a second!” (The timeframe was miraculously shrinking.)

“Just, please, wait until after dinner. I need to finish this and get your brother to Young Life. When I come home, we’ll eat and then I can give your nails all the attention they need. You’re just going to have to wait! Please don’t ask me again.”

“But, Mom! I promise, it will be sooooo fast….”

And so it went.

Truth be told, I can empathize with my little fashionista. When you desperately want something, waiting for it can feel like an all-out eternity, like someone removed the batteries from the kitchen wall clock and time as we know it has stopped like rush hour traffic. Like the thing might NEVER HAPPEN. We'll never get to our intended destination. At least, not on time.

The funny thing about waiting is that it never really ends. As we grow up, our waiting just looks a little different. It may no longer be about getting your nails painted NOW! (Although if you saw my toenails you’d probably slap me $40 and send me on my way.)

For sure there are things we “wait” for that are fairly inconsequential — we wait for the show to start, the light to turn green, our turn at the check-out counter -- but there are lots of other things we wait for that feel (and are) much more substantial. Like waiting for “Mr. Right” to come along, for that baby to arrive, for that kid to finally sleep through the night, for that adoption to happen, for that job to come through... Many of these things, require a passive wait. There isn't much we can actually do to hasten the outcome.

However, when big things come our way that require we make a decision or a take specific action in order for them to come to fruition, how do we decide what to do?

Sometimes I feel things so clearly, like the Holy Spirit has given me a massive green light, whereas other times He imparts a “holy hesitation.” My flesh might want one thing, but the Spirit suggests another. 

In fact, just today I had to mentally wade through the process of whether to act or whether to wait. 

As a writer, I process MANY (perhaps too many) of my thoughts on paper — either in a private journal or on this blog for the whole world to read. Yesterday, I found myself writing down some thoughts in an effort to process something very tender to my heart. I drafted the whole thing in no time flat. The emotions were there and the words followed, but as I thought about whether to post it or not, I had a massive gut check. I could’ve easily said “screw the consequences” and hit “publish,” but I knew I had to take a step back, examine my heart, my motives and the potential fall out. I needed to WAIT.

I went through the mental check list: 

* Is this true? Yes.

* Is it encouraging? Maybe.

* Does it glorify God? I think so.

* Could it hurt someone else? Possibly.

So, rather than pull the trigger, I did what I often do. I asked my hubby to lay eyes on the words and give me his wisdom. He read it and immediately suggested I wait. Then I sent it to my WIP girls. What did they think? Believe it or not, the three of us don’t always agree on everything 100%. I initially got mixed reviews from them, but at the end of the day, I knew the answer. Wait. 

Perhaps this was something I needed to write for me — a post that, for now, is something between me and the Lord. And, of course, the three wise peeps.

In this instance I trust the "holy hesitation" is worth listening to. Despite my lack of desire, I'm summoning the spirit of self-control. I'm trusting that if I wait for the proper timing, the Lord will give me something even better, more uplifting, better thought out...

The idea of waiting has now morphed into something that is less of a “bad word” and more of a realization that sometimes I’m not ready for what’s on the other side. Waiting encapsulates a time and space the Lord uses to prepare me for whatever He has next. Perhaps He wants to grow me more. Perhaps He's protecting me. Perhaps angels are fighting battles in the heavenly realms. Perhaps it’s something else entirely. I may not know the answer in the now, but I have to trust that that's okay. 

I once heard Beth Moore say that God invented time so He could glorify Himself through His sovereign, impeccable timing. 

All I know is that if it’s not reality, then it’s not time. If I experience a "holy hesitation," it's not time.

Therefore, I trust and am thankful for the wait. (Just remind me I said that the next time I'm waiting in the driver's permit line at the DMV. #rootcanalanyone?)

How do you process whether to act or whether to wait? Whether to speak or hold your tongue? Do you tend to be a ticking time bomb or a patient princess? (Perhaps we're all a little of both!)

Christina's Take: 

One thing I know for sure: you did not write this just for yourself (as you surmise.) You AT LEAST wrote it for my heart, too.

I am such a foolish person when it comes to making snap decisions. I don't seem to have that ability to take a half-a-mo to sort out the questions of discernment.

So grateful for this reminder -- and grateful for your "gut check" that has caused me to take stock of some things in a new way today. Love you, girl!

Holly's Take:

Waiting. Waiting can be the most anxiety ridden practice around. When Dave and I waited for 500 days to find out if we would bring home our baby, Negusu, home from Ethiopia, it sent me into one heaping round of questioning my faith. Every week we heard we would be bringing him home, followed by the next week, when we heard we wouldn't and that cycle seriously went on for five hundred days. And then at the end of it all, we didn't even ever get to bring him home. It just felt like loss at the end of all that waiting.  Sometimes this part of my story gets lost in the mix of everything else, but when I think of the emotional energy that was spent just waiting over that year and half, I will still find a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. It was at this time that I had to chose faith, because nothing made sense. I also concluded during that waiting era, that we can only see about 1/1000th of the picture that God does. When I start thinking about the waits and the whys and His timing, etc. . . I always picture myself talking to God and telling him why I think we waited for Negusu all that time and never got him.  Then he would sweetly grin and say, "you'll understand someday."  I just can't imagine that I would tell him why I think something had to happen and he would say, "Yep, you figured it all out.  Way to go."  Faith and waiting. Hard stuff.  Big stuff.