When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to try to grow a garden. I say try because I was terrible at it. Ninety percent of the things that I planted either never grew, or died quickly after sprouting.
But by far, one of the hardest parts of trying to grow a garden was waiting. The time between planting the seed and it actually sprouting above the ground was pure torture to me. I used to try to dig around the seed to see if it had sprouted at all. Of course, that effort ended up killing the seedling, (part of the reason why nothing ever grew) but I couldn’t wait the weeks or months that it took for the seed to germinate and sprout.
I lacked patience. I hated waiting. (I still lack patience and hate waiting). Part of the reason I hate it so much though, is that it feels as though I am not able to do anything. And not being able to do anything is pure torture. I can’t control the time and it feels so passive.
But is waiting truly passive?
When a seed is in the middle ground between planting and sprouting, it isn’t simply sitting underground doing nothing. It is soaking up nutrients from the soil. Its cells are feeding off of the sun that shines down. It is drinking up the water from the rain, allowing the seed case to crack and sprout under the ground, even though it isn’t visible from above the ground.
When we are waiting – for a new job, for a new career, for school to be over, for a relationship, for the next thing in life – it can feel at times like nothing is happening. Like nothing is visible. And it’s frustrating. But like the seed under the ground, appearances can be deceiving.
Every experience we have while waiting plays some role in preparing us for what comes next. We feel like we want to control the wait, like we know we are ready now and the next thing should be made to come sooner. But when we force that thing to happen before it should, we often find ourselves unready for it.
When I graduated high school, the thing I wanted most to come next was to go to this one-year Bible training school. All my friends were going and I was determined to go too. I wanted to go because I thought it would prepare me to go to college. But it didn’t work out and I had to wait four years and go to college first. I remember numerous times throughout the last four years where I was so frustrated because I didn’t get to go. I had to wait. And it was pure torture. But nearing the end of four years of college, the opportunity has arisen for me to go next year. And I have realized that waiting was possibly the best thing that happened to prepare me to go to this school.
Because of the last four years, I am perhaps more ready for this next step than I was four years ago. The good times, the times that the sun shone down, fed me and gave me strength. The hard times, the times it poured down rain, made my shell crack so that when the time came for me to sprout above the ground, I was ready.
Waiting’s still hard. It’s still pure torture, and I still try to control it at times. But I know that waiting is not passive. When we wait, we prepare. And without preparation, the next step is a lot harder.