“Count no day lost in which you waited your turn, took only your share, and sought advantage over no one” (Robert Brault).
IT IS A MISTAKE TO THINK WAITING IS ALWAYS A WASTE OF TIME. Sometimes it is, to be sure, but often it is not. There is a time to act, and there is a time to wait. When waiting is appropriate, we must not try to hurry the outcome of events. Even in our spiritual lives, “patient waiting is often the highest way of doing God’s will” (Jeremy Collier). The ability to wait can be a high virtue.
When circumstances are not unfolding as quickly as we’d like, whether our waiting is good or bad depends on the attitude with which we wait. If we give in to exasperation and irritation, what could be a strength-building experience becomes nothing more than fuel for our anger. And not only that, but irritation only makes the time pass even more slowly. I found that out last January when I was one of several thousand motorists caught in an eleven-hour traffic jam that resulted from an ice storm in Alabama. None of us could do anything but wait, and if I didn’t know it before, I learned it during that long, cold night: with a little patience, you find that you can “wait much faster.”
I think many of us find waiting to be hard because it frustrates our sense of control. We like to think we can make everything happen at the “right time” (i.e., “right now”), and we don’t take kindly to delays that push events past the deadline we have set for them. But we’re not always wise enough to see when it would be best for certain things to occur. If we’re honest, hindsight often reveals that the very best time was long after we thought the event should have taken place. We may not like it, but later is sometimes better. “All comes at the proper time to him who knows how to wait” (Vincent de Paul).
But waiting does not always mean absolute inactivity. As Thomas Edison, who was a busy man, observed, good things come to the person who “hustles while he waits.” We need to learn the habit of “active waiting.” Whether some blessing is slow in coming or some sorrow is slow in leaving, we can wait actively — with our minds and our hands engaged in good thoughts and good deeds. Rightly considered, patience produces not only peace of mind but a productive life.
“Let us . . . learn to labor and to wait” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow).