Stuck in the “Waiting Place”

A few weeks ago, I had my day planned down to the minute.  I showered, got dressed, checked my e-mails, made sure the kids were fed, helped one of my daughters pack a snack, did another daughter’s hair, loaded up the van with stuff and kids, and headed out.  I dropped my oldest daughter, Gracelyn off at her art class and remembered to exchange numbers with another of the moms like we had planned.  I then had a two hour window before I had to return to pick her up.  I wanted to get as many errands done as I could.  I returned library books, took the trunk full of cans to the bottle depot, rented a movie, stopped to get gum for my second oldest son because his younger siblings had taken the gum he had bought himself, gassed up the van, and got in the line to go through the car wash.  Where I live, the winter weather has been all over the place and the salt they use on the roads to make them less slippery is hard on vehicles.  I only had this one day that I could wash the van because it was set to go into a deep freeze again the next day.  When I got into that lineup at the car wash, there was more than half an hour before I had to pick my oldest son Mackenzie up at school just a minute away from there and then ten minutes to get back to Gracelyn’s art class after that, which is exactly what the drive would take me.  I wasn’t worried at all about the time.

Ten minutes later, the line had moved very little and I was starting to get worried.  I looked for a way out of the line, but could see none.  There were cars in front of me and trucks behind me and on either side of me, curbs, which would normally not be hard to get over, but they were covered in snowbanks between five and six feet high.  There was no way I could get out of there.  When twenty minutes had passed and I was still not even at the front, I had to rethink my original plan.  It seemed obvious that there was no way I would be able to pick Gracelyn up on time.  Mackenzie has taken a cell phone with him that day, as he was writing finals and finishing early, so I texted him that I would be late and knew that he had a safe place to wait for me.  Then I called my husband, who works not too far from the building that the art class was in and asked if he could please pick her up.  After explaining my situation, he gladly fetched her and later dropped her off at my next stop.  In the end, my van got washed, Mackenzie got picked up, as did Gracelyn.  It all worked out.

But as I sat there in that lineup, completely stuck, in a situation that was not in my control, I got to thinking about the ways that this paralleled life at times.  There are times in our lives when we are in a situation where we are essentially stuck.  Sometimes, this situation is one that a choice that we made got us into, just as my decision to enter the car wash in the first place had put me in that position.  Other times, we are stuck due to circumstances that we did not initiate.  Whatever the case is, being held hostage against your will is not an enviable spot to be in.

There are of course times in life when we may feel stuck, but by making choices and changes, we can determine our own fate and get out of the situation we are in.  What I was thinking about are the times when no choice we make or change we initiate will get us out of what we find ourselves in.

For some, it may be a chronic illness that they find themselves having to cope with or the fallout of the choices of a family member of close friend that create the unenviable circumstance.  The aging of parents, the death of a loved one, unemployment, or even being a student are circumstances that can make people feel “stuck”.

In Dr. Seuss’ book “Oh, The Places You’ll Go”, he talks about this as being the “waiting place”.   He calls it “a most useless place”.  About this, Dr. Seuss and I will have to disagree.  I think that in the waiting place, a lot can be learnt, character can strengthen, and relationships can transform.

One of the times in my life when I felt stuck was during our last adoption when we were waiting for years.  In that case, we had made the initial choice (choosing to adopt) that had put us there, but everything after that was beyond our control.  We were stuck in waiting mode for nearly three years and our lives were in limbo, unable to move forward until that piece of our family was complete.  More recently, when Gracelyn was very ill for eight months, we were again stuck.  All of our choices were coloured by the not knowing from day to day what would happen.  We were unable to plan even one day ahead and were stranded in a life that we could not escape from.  Both of those were scary times and the feeling of not having any control was awful.

For me, my faith got me through those times and others in my life when I have been in the waiting place, when I cannot turn left or right and have snow banks on either side of me.  When there is a giant SUV in front of me and a truck near my bumper behind and I am just stuck, it has been knowing that God is in control even when I am not that has made it possible for me to try to find the blessings even in the waiting place.  One song that I found comforting during our adoption wait is called “While I’m Waiting” by John Waller.

The only thing we have control over when we are in those places in life when we are stuck in a circumstance we would not choose and cannot get away from, is our attitude.  Waiting can teach us about patience.  It can uncover an inner strength that we did not know we possessed.  It can build in us persistence and it can reveal the relationships that are true.  Waiting can be a gift in itself.



3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by mamalovemultipliedby4 on February 8, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Wow! Needed 2 hear that today. I am in a waiting place and I am always having 2 keep my attitude in check 2 keep from getting 2 down about my situation. It’s so hard but so necessary for overcoming in life.


  2. Posted by dianne on February 8, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Thanks for this. We are in a waiting place just now – and it is far from easy, but every day I can take a deep breath and choose how to react to it. It is a good faith-strengthening exercise!


  3. I’ve spent years in different “waiting places”–fertility treatment, waiting for my son’s first diagnosis, and now coming out of the other side of a long-lasting waiting place regarding our child’s school placement. I’m sure this won’t be the last. It’s part of life. And I totally agree with you–there are some things we can’t control, but we always can decide how we will react. That let’s me retain some sense of dignity in even the hardest situations.


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