My husband says one of the best parenting lines I ever came out with was when our elder son, frustrated with impatience, exclaimed that he simply couldn’t wait any longer and I replied:
“OK, stop waiting then – just sit there!”
Bizarrely, it worked. He spotted fidgeting and complaining and, unknowingly, waited calmly.
And that’s what we tend to think of waiting as: a passive exercise in inactivity, just sitting there. But I remember the night I learned that waiting and watching were active verbs.
Our younger son, with the logic of a 12 year old, had decided that he would get extra bounce on the trampoline if he did it on a space hopper. And he was right, except he bounced right off. There followed an ambulance trip to A&E, the diagnosis of a spiral fracture to his tibia, and an admission to the children’s ward.
Parents were allowed to stay overnight but, as his admission was very late at night, there were no folding beds or comfortable armchairs available for me next to his bed, only a rigid plastic chair. He had never been in hospital before, he was in pain, and he was scared. There was no way I was leaving his side, not even to sleep on the sofa in the playroom at the far end of the ward. My boy needed me.
So I settled down to watch and wait and get what sleep I could whenever he dosed off. I got very little. The chair was more uncomfortable than an airline seat. The floor, even with a borrowed pillow and blanket from an empty bed, was no better, especially with my arm permanently extended to hold my son’s hand. Doctors and nurses came to do obs throughout the night. And my boy needed regular reassurance and distraction from the worry of possible surgery the next day.
In one sense I was just watching and waiting. Watching for signs of distress or discomfort. Watching for things I could do to make him feel better. Watching for hoped for peaceful sleep to claim him. Waiting for pain to pass. Waiting for test results. Waiting for medical decisions. Waiting for the night to end. Just watching and waiting.
But it definitely wasn’t a passive activity. My boy needed to know that he wasn’t alone. He needed to know that someone was right by his side going through every minute of this with him. He needed to know that he was loved. And those things are never passive.
That night made me think about Jesus going through agony and anguish alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, how He longed for the same things as my boy. I wonder if He wished for His mother’s comforting love when His friends let Him down. And I wonder what difference it would have made if one human had been able to watch and wait with love alongside Him.
Lord, make us towers of watching and waiting with those who need to know that Love has not abandoned them.