Active Waiting vs Passive Waiting

A few weeks ago my church asked me to speak as part of a series they were doing. Any time I am asked to talk at a church or event, I have to carefully weigh whether to accept or not. Of course it's easy to say a knee-jerk “Yes!” and dive right in. After all, it's kind of nice to be the centre of attention and have people listen to your every word, non? The decision hinges on am I teaching something truly relevant or trying to be clever? If it's the former, I'm in. The topic I chose was Active Waiting vs Passive Waiting. Could I teach on it? Heck yeah!

Passive Waiting is something we all probably know about. Why? Because we are impatient. Think about it for a second. Pretty much everything in our lives is just a button-push away. You can shop online and avoid the queue at the store, have food delivered to your home from a restaurant without having to wait for a table, download any book or album from your sofa, watch a bazillion channels, donate money to a charity without having to actually do anything, dictate into a machine and have it type what you say... We want stuff now, now, now. The main problem—and I'm speaking from personal experience here—is that for everything we do, instant results are expected, and the result we want. For example, If I do ______________ followed by ______________ then surely _______________ will happen! When it doesn't—which is most of the time—the despair and impatience only deepens and our frustration with the world pours out into the truly important areas like relationships with loved ones and demeanor amongst colleagues etc. Passive Waiting is like a poison. We take on the form of cynicism and doing nothing, becoming begrudging and bitter. We are waiting for the life we deserve and for the miracles we believe should happen.

Active Waiting is a profoundly different thing. Active Waiting is when we take a better posture and cultivate good habits in our daily lives. My own confession is that I spent a lot of time waiting for the next big thing to happen. I believed that every time I took my phone from my pocket I'd see an email that would say “Your book has been shortlisted for an award!” or “You have been chosen to give a TED Talk.” My head was in the clouds and on my phone. I just wasn't in the moment and my relationships suffered, truly. The good habits stretch to all areas of our lives. Not just the creative parts. Being invested in the community is the best form of Active Waiting I know. It prepares a readiness in us so that when something does come along, we are ready and in a good mental place to respond in an appropriate manner. A recent example for me: Two weeks ago, two of my dearest friends, Josh and Jenn, moved their family back to the US for a year. The preceding week was full-on with them packing up their home. Josh and I spent the majority of our time in a van lugging stuff to storage and the dump. On our very last run to the storage at 2:30 am, we got there to realize we had left the keys back at the apartment! Exhausted and dreaming of our beds, Josh drove back to get the keys. I waited on the side of the street, surrounded by their personal artifacts, on a quiet cool night. What want through my head was, there's magic in the mundane. I could have been frustrated, but in the moment I found a peace of mind that had eluded me for a long time. I wasn't waiting for ______________ to drop into my lap. Just being in the moment and helping a friend brought far more joy. Below are the words I journaled the week before my talk, maybe they will be of some comfort to you as you navigate your day.

Your destiny will not be revealed to the sound of trumpets heralding the arrival of angels. They will not open a scroll with your name written in gold letters and announce your mission. It will be years of waiting and wading through messy stuff, but when your time comes, and it will come, you'll be ready. You may be consoling a neighbor or a colleague, or helping your child through drug addiction or a spouse who is down on their luck. Even if it seems like the world is against you, there are people who love you and need you. Live fully with what is in front of you with the unique set of skills that God has gifted. And never forget this: God has you right where He needs you, otherwise he wouldn't allow you to be anywhere else.