The experience of hospital waiting rooms has all sorts of side effects.
After I feel like I've sat forever (which almost always counts to eleven minutes and seventeen seconds), Sum 41's Still Waiting plunges into circulation in my head. If you don't know that song, here's my gift for you today.
I wait for that high school memory to fall out of that internal playlist, but that waiting is always in vain. Fortunately, not all of our waiting is met this way.
In Lent, we wait for Holy Week. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of our waiting with a cross of ashes, which leads to a crown of thorns, a wooden cross, and an empty tomb. In Lent, we await a known outcome. Waiting rooms hold more of a hoped-for result, where we know how things should go, how we pray they'll go, but never quite certain because everything happens behind the veil of surgical masks, closed doors, and screens with color-coded numbers carrying ambiguous updates.
There's also a blessing in many waiting rooms. I've learned so much about family and friends that might never have appeared without such a glut of unplanned time together. New information, delightfully odd conversations, and a chance confession all seem much more normal than alien to waiting room walls. Perhaps in the vulnerability of others as they face different procedures of various severity brings out in us a different sense of vulnerability, admitting our need for connection and desire for partnership. We rarely want to wait alone, especially when we're nervous for those that we love.
Too often, though, we feel as though we must face these situations silently, holding our anxiety with our own fragile hands. Neither in Lent nor in hospitals is this the case, but we seem too stubborn or too afraid, or perhaps some tragic vortex of the two, to admit our needs.
The next time you plan to wait on someone for a surgery, invite a friend, a pastor, a mentor, a family member, or anyone else who might just sit with you. Talk some. Listen some. Even just work together in the same space. There's no demand on you to face this alone. The same is true of your Lenten journeys. In your fasts, find someone to share that struggle. As you yearn for Easter, share those desires. As you struggle with the cross Jesus bears and the one you're called to bear, remember that we all bear one as we follow our Lord. Share that. Life in the church, and life in waiting rooms, is meant as life together.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.