The Agony of Waiting - Charlene Chan
There are many things I am not good at. For example, competitive sports, making salads, holding long philosophical conversations, reaching for objects on tall shelves. Most of these things are fortunately not part of my day-to-day life. But what is part of daily life, and what I am also terrible at, is waiting.
Over the last 4 months, I have waited for countless things. Some I hoped would not come to pass, others I hoped they would indeed come to pass. Waiting for: the world to wake up and take seriously this global threat, videochat with my parents hoping to find them healthy, the first case of the coronavirus in the city, PPE to arrive, the first instance of racially-motivated attack, government at all levels to act, guidance from the WHO and the CDC, news from colleagues hoping to hear they were as well as can be, test results to come back, my patients to sign on to Zoom, the curve to flatten, clinical trial results, a vaccine, a cure, and my own mind and body to recover when they were simply too overwhelmed to go on.
Waiting feels like a forced state of helplessness or inaction. Oftentimes to me, having to wait means something is not working as well as it should be working, and that requires troubleshooting. I feel the pressure to constantly be better and make things better. Yes, I do my part with washing my hands, wearing a face mask, practicing social distancing, giving, and helping. But it seems so little, a drop in the bucket that barely has any effect on all the things I am waiting for.
So what am I to do in this impatient, anxious, striving state? What of the disquieting parts that I cannot control, that at times keep me up at night? My tendency to aim for… well, higher, better, faster, stronger often also leads to sin, shedding light on impatience, self-centeredness, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, and an unloving heart.
It has been and continues to be a struggle, but I know I should leave it all to the One who never slumbers. I must learn to stop my anxiety-driven attempts at the perfect solution and look to God for hope. The Bible is full of verses on waiting on the LORD and on His sovereignty. The ones that come to mind are Ecclesiastes 3, Proverbs 16:9, Acts 17:26-27, and James 4:13-16.
My hope is in the good news that God created me with my background, experiences, and personality. In the midst of my waiting and striving, He forgives me for all the times I fall short, all the times I fail to practice patience and fail to trust in His complete control over the situation. He enables me to participate in His plan of reconciliation of creation and humanity to Himself. He enables me to move in obedience. He enables me to utilize my background, experiences, and personality when needed, and to act counter to them when that is needed. God the Holy Spirit working in me is more powerful than my heart and mind. He is more powerful than time. He is more powerful than SARS CoV-2.
At the same time, the death, suffering, loneliness, isolation, economic devastation, and pain that have come about are awful. I thank God that He has given us the Psalms allowing us to be complex, multi-faceted individuals who can come to Him in all situations. There really is a time for everything. I do not run out during a tornado to look for a silver lining. Rather, I go in the basement and shelter until it has passed. Then the community comes together to mourn, heal, and rebuild. The rainbow that appears after a storm does not trivialize or negate the destruction to people and property, but it is a symbol of God’s promise, a symbol to give hope. Hope is what enables me to wait.
As a practical person, I need something concrete. So in conclusion: I love tea. I dislike coffee. Coffee has this amazing aroma; then you taste it and you feel like you have been betrayed. Not so with tea. But you know what? Tea requires steeping at the right temperature for the right number of minutes. It requires waiting."
Charlene Chan is a New Orleans transplant and family medicine physician at BCHS, a primary care clinic serving patients in the Upper & Lower 9th, Chalmette, and Mandeville. Thoughts are my own and do not reflect those of my employer.