5 Things We Can Learn From The Waiting Game
We have all heard the saying: “All Good Things Come To Those Who Wait.” I am not sure about you but waiting isn’t my game. I was born to do things quickly. Speed runs through my DNA. When I was working in the corporate world, I earned the nickname the Tazmanian Devil because, like the cartoon, I ran everywhere to save time. Walking was for the weak. I needed to maximize time and efficiency!
Wasting precious time is so frustrating to me that I structure my day around having to minimize waiting. I will wake up an hour earlier to avoid traffic. I will shop when no one else does to avoid queues. I will wake up in the middle of the night to get to the front of a home affairs queue. You get the point.
It therefore comes as no surprise that when things are beyond my control, and I am forced to wait, it’s like watching paint dry. It kills me. However this week I was able to take a step back and observe how waiting created incredible joy for my child and it got me thinking that maybe having to wait can teach us some magnificent life lessons if we allow it to.
The Sheer Delight Of A Child Who Waited
Until Wednesday, my 7 year old son was the only one in his class who hadn’t so much as even lost a tooth. Those little white pearlers were stuck firmly into his jaw and they had zero plans to move.
I would pick my son up from school and all his friends would flash their toothless gums McGhee at me and I began to worry whether my son would still be sporting his milk teeth in his wedding photos one day! The thought was rather scary so off we went to the dentist just to check that all was indeed good under the hood. The dentist confirmed, with a raised eyebrow, that my son indeed had a full set of beautiful adult teeth waiting upstairs which would head on down when they were ready.
All we had to do was wait!
And wait we did! For over two years!
Until last Monday!
My son came into my bedroom and conducted his daily do-I have-any-wobbly-teeth-check (always with much trepidation and baited breath.)
Today his reaction was different!
His eyes widened like golf balls and he screamed in utter surprise: “MUM!!! MUM!!! I have a loose tooth!”
And then as surely and as confidently as he had discovered the natural wonder, emotion overcame him. He had been waiting for this day for years. The relief was palpable. A long awaited dream had come true. Tears filled his little, sparkling eyes and spilled out over his pink cheeks.
“I can’t believe it’s finally happening for me,” he sobbed as he reached to hug me and share his overwhelming joy.
It was such a precious moment and one that I want to hold onto forever. For the next two days whenever I encountered a frustrating life challenge, I took myself back to the moment when my little boys long awaited dream came true and it always made me smile.
But it equally got me thinking, if this was the joy my boy experienced from having to wait, why don’t we practice the principle with our kids more? What do we teach our kids (and of course, ourselves) when we wait?
1.) The Joy Is In The Journey:
We all know the sense of triumph we feel when we reach a destination or achieve a life goal. But most of the living happens on the journey.
The challenges, trials and tribulations all occur in the middle. It is this middle, the wait, the land in between, that is life.
To extract the most from life, we should teach our kids to savour and to appreciate the moments. We should teach them that life is not only about ticking boxes. It is about looking around every day and appreciating the miracle that is life itself.
Christmas is a joyous time in most families. I have observed in our home that often the build up to Christmas brings as much, if not even more joy, than the actual day.
It is the anticipation of wondering what Father Christmas will bring, choosing gifts for loved ones, wrapping gifts, writing cards, decorating a tree, making ginger bread houses, putting out cookies and beer for Father Christmas and trying desperately to stay awake all night to hear the thud of the reindeer and the sleigh on the roof.
Of course, Christmas Day is never a disappointment, but it lasts one day and then it’s gone. Toys are played with and forgotten about in a matter of days and then the wait for the next Christmas begins…….
2.) Waiting Creates Value:
When things come easily to us, we don’t always appreciate them as much when it’s taken time to get there. Anticipation builds value over time.
Think back to my son and his tooth. When he realized that he FINALLY had a loose tooth, he couldn’t do a thing that day without mentioning his tooth:
“Mum how do I eat with a loose tooth?”
“Mum how do I brush my teeth with a loose tooth?”
“Mum can I go show all the neighbours my loose tooth?”
“Mum look at the blood from this tooth! It’s coooooming soon!”
But that was nothing in comparison to the treatment the tooth got when it fell out! It was given a serious scrub (with the plug in the basin, just in case). It was wrapped in cotton wool, then tissue, then placed in a zip lock bag and finally it was laid to rest in a sparkly hand-made box!
That tooth got so much attention and love, all because of the wait!
3.) Waiting Teaches Gratitude:
Waiting for things should remind us to express gratitude even when our wishes are not met. It’s easier to be grateful when the wish list is ticked. It’s quite another expressing gratitude when the things we want seem out of reach, but that’s exactly when we should pause, take stock and express thanks for what we DO have.
So often in life we compare upwards, thinking we need to keep up with the Jones’s.
How many of us look down and realize that if we have a roof over our head and a place to sleep, food in the fridge and clothes on our back then we are richer than 75% of the world. If you have money in your bank, your wallet, and some spare change, you are among 8 percent of the world’s wealthy (1). Your glass in fuller than you think.
I want my kids to grow up appreciating how lucky they are to live the lives they do. They may not have everything they want, but they certainly have enough of their needs met. Although they may have to wait for their wants, they should give thanks for the everyday miracles in between.
4.) Waiting Builds Us Up By Breaking Us Down First:
When I look back on my life and reflect on times there was a long wait, I can see how it built character.
Character refers to an individual’s mental and moral qualities.
Not getting what you want, when you want it, teaches you that the world does not revolve around you. Waiting teaches you humility. It teaches you to dig deep and develop perseverance. Waiting teaches patience. It builds empathy.
When we have experienced the hard, we are more likely to open our eyes to the suffering and the plight of others.
5.) Waiting Builds Faith
When the wait is just too long. When we are at the end of our tether. When our own strength has taken us so far and no further, that is often when we turn to God and ask for His help.
Ironically when we feel our weakest, that is when we are most often our strongest as we have enlisted the help of an almighty, all-knowing, all-loving God.
Paul said “When I a weak, then I am strong.” He knew that He was at His best when he was at his worst as that was when the savior of the world was carrying him.
It is sad that many of us only ask for help from our Father when we are at our wits end and when the wait has become too long to bear. But the reality is that the wait brings us to Him. Waiting builds faith and relationship with God and that is why He made you: to live and love in relationship with Him!
Time To Wait and See
Waiting is hard. Particularly for people like me who want everything completed yesterday.
In an age when we are used to instant responses, waiting can be incredibly frustrating.
But next time the wait is keeping you up at night, remember to pause and think about what it’s teaching you.
Maybe good things really DO come to those who wait after all……