In the Waiting Room

There’s a great Seinfeld routine about the doctor’s waiting room. It’s always frustrating to me that you make an appointment — an appointment! — to see the doctor at such and such a time. You show up at that time, they make you sit in the waiting room, then after a while your name is called and you get to wait again, this time in the little waiting room.

What is the point of making an appointment if you don’t get to see the doctor at that time?

But isn’t the waiting room experience sometimes how it goes with Life? I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent a lot of time in God’s waiting room. I know a lot people who have. It’s frustrating. You’d rather be somewhere else. Anywhere else. But there are a few things that are really important to know about God’s waiting room:

We grow there. We tend to assume that we’ll grow when life is easy. We like to think of ourselves as flowers, give us plenty of light, plenty of protection, and just the right amount of fertilizer and water, and we’ll grow like crazy.

But we’re much more like film. We’re intended to develop into the image of Jesus. (did you see what I just did there!? :) Film is ruined in the light. Film needs darkness to be developed.

Like film, we develop in the dark. When we can’t see our hands in front of our face and have to rely on Jesus — that’s when we grow. The next time you’re in God’s waiting room, don’t waste it. Figure out what God is trying to teach you out of it.

God proves himself there. I can think of many times when I was in the waiting room, and all I had was Jesus. He was proving that all I had was all I needed.

God proves us there. There’s a quote that maybe you’ve heard of before: “God proves before he promotes”. This is illustrated in Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14. The master gives some money to his workers, and goes away.

In the same way, God sometimes gives us something to steward, then gets out of our way to do with it as we please. Sometimes what we do with it is good, sometimes it’s bad. God is proving us for the next challenge.

God levels us up there. This is the best way I can think of to describe what happens in the waiting room. When you leave the waiting room (temporarily), if you’ve used the time well, then you’ll be a better person. Not an incrementally better person, but a much better person on some given issue. It’s like, at the end of the waiting room, if you’ve been using the time well, something eventually “clicks” and you go to the next level.

And that last point comes with a large caveat. Whether the waiting room is productive or not largely depends on our response. Life is 1% what happens to you and 99% what you do in response. The waiting room is no different.

Between the slavery of Egypt and the freedom of the promised land, God took Israel to the waiting room of the desert to prepare them for life as a free people living under God.

While in the waiting room, Israel repeatedly grumbled and complained despite all that God had (and continued) to do for them.

So what was God’s response? He eventually got so fed up with their complaining that He stuck them in the waiting room. Permanently.

He sent them to the desert and deliberately let them wander until the entire whining, grumbling generation of complainers were all dead!

Israel’s waiting room was designed to be good for them, a way to learn to follow God. But they wouldn’t learn what God was trying to teach them, and they were stubborn to such a terrible degree that God eventually just gave up on them.

This illustrates possibly the most important lesson about God’s waiting room: God is teaching you something in the waiting room — but it’s up to you to respond. God will extravagantly pursue you in the waiting room, and generously teach you to become more like Him, but if you refuse to learn, you will probably eventually get stuck in a waiting room.

The almighty God that created and sustains the universe is trying to teach you something. It’s worth listening to. Find out what God is trying to teach you in His waiting room, and not only will the waiting room be easier (though never easy), you’ll become a better person in the end.