We have a billion reasons why we can’t be or aren’t where we want to be. The main answer? “I’m waiting”. But have we given any thought to what “I’m waiting” really means?
Little known fact about this site is that the most popular blog posts I’ve written aren’t always the most commented, liked, or even shared ones. Sure, there are some posts which have garnered more a response from readers, but I’m pretty happy that some of the posts with the most visitors are actually the ones that seem a bit out of the way.
One such post is What “I’m Not Ready For A Relationship” Really Means. It would be far and away my most searched post, as many people find themselves in a predicament where they have used or have heard this line, and aren’t sure what the statement fully means. That, or they’re not sure how to negotiate past it.
I was thinking the other day, what are some of the other big statements we use in our lives? One such phrase that we routinely either use or hear when talking about our lives is the following:
Waiting. Waiting is the description we give the situation in our life where what we want or are expecting has not yet eventuated in our lives. It usually implies there is some factor out of our current control that we are unable to alter before we end up in the place we want to be. This could be anywhere, or anything. We use it all the time – we’re waiting for our food, we’re waiting for our boss to promote us, we’re waiting for our purpose to become clearer, we’re waiting for a person, we’re waiting to fall in love, we’re waiting to start a business, we’re waiting to get involved, we’re waiting to be asked – we’re just waiting.
But what is it exactly that we’re saying when we use this phrase? Here’s a few thoughts I’ve had on this overused justification of where we’re at. Here’s what “I’m waiting” really means.
Or at least what it might mean in the context you’re using it or hearing it.
I’m looking for a sign
One of the most common uses of “I’m waiting” is in the sentence, “I’m just waiting for a sign”. We usually say this when we’re uncertain about an area of our lives, and we need some sort of indication as to the path we should take. We don’t mind what sign it is, just as long as we get one. A magical golden light that shines on the path to take, like in a Disney movie. Maybe the orchestra could swell to a crescendo as we approach the right decision. Perhaps an angel could appear to us in the flesh and spell out every step we should take.
Sometimes we’ll say this when our life is full of signs. Every single person we trust that we ask about this decision is completely for it (or completely against it) but we’re shut off to their feedback. Our life is becoming severely impaired or damaged by continuing down the path. Ah, but when I get the sign that makes me feel better about the potentially bad decision I’m making, or want to make, then I’ll have found what I’m looking for!
Or sometimes there just hasn’t been any sign either way. We call it “silence”. Perhaps in these cases it just means it’s time for us to be big boys and girls and *gulp* make a decision.
I’m not actually doing anything about it
Usually the phrase “I’m waiting” is used when we want something, but we’re not entirely sure how to go about moving towards it. And so, instead of saying “I’m doing nothing about what I want”, we say the nicer phrase which puts the onus on someone or something else before we get there.
Imagine a professional athlete who said to you, “I’m just waiting for the next Olympics to come around”. You would seriously question their long term future as an athlete. Why? Cause there was no indication that they’re actually going to be ready for it. Why didn’t they mention their training? Maybe they aren’t actually training for it.
Unfortunately, we do the same. We want to start a business, but we haven’t looked at what’s involved in starting a business. We want to “be in ministry one day”, but we’re not doing any ministry now. We want to marry the girl or the guy we like, but we haven’t even said hello. We want to, we want to, we want to.
But “we’re waiting”.
I don’t recognize what I want in my life at the moment
This is usually a more accurate description of the shorter “I’m waiting” expression. We’re waiting because what we’re expecting to happen first doesn’t seem to have happened yet. “I can’t start the business because my boss hasn’t suggested the idea to me”. “I can’t pursue relationship cause everyone I know sucks”. “I don’t have a good feeling about being diligent with my finances, and a good feeling hasn’t come yet”.
Sometimes we’re so sure of what we need to happen before what we want to happen can happen. And maybe we’re right.
But maybe we’re not.
I’m not sure what I’m waiting for
What are you waiting for?
If you can’t answer that question, it probably means you’re not actually waiting for anything. That means literally nothing is holding you back from being or doing or saying what you know is right to say.
I think if we’re not able to be specific with the apparent obstacles to progress in our lives, there’s a strong chance that we just don’t want to do what we know we should for whatever reason.
Maybe everyone else is actually waiting for you to get over yourself and go for it. Or you could sit by and let life go on without you.
In the words of Helen Forrest – “Time waits for no one, it passes you by”.
My prayers haven’t been answered yet
“I’m still praying about it”. Have you ever heard that one said before? Have you ever used that one before?
We recently had a leaders retreat for the young adult leaders in our church out by a lake. It was a great time, and the conversations we had were definitely a highlight for all of us. One of my favourite things that was said over the weekend was said by one of our great men named Andre. He said that when he is praying for wisdom about decisions in his life, he will go up to a mountain and pray specifically about it, and he won’t leave until he has an answer. And more often than not, he gets exactly what he asked for.
We would do well to do the same. So many times we make our apathy or indifference sound spiritual, when really it’s not at all.
If you were really going to pray about something, then you would also actually wait for an answer. Physically displace yourself in a spot until you’ve actually heard back. Imagine a conversation where one person said something and then just walked away without letting the other person get their view in. So many times, that’s how we pray.
If you want to say “I’m waiting”, then make sure that is a literal description of your posture and intent, and not just a way to avoid thinking about a big decision.
The time doesn’t feel right
Here’s an interesting one. Many of us have a sense of the timing we would like events to occur in our lives. We have our 5 year plans or at least have an idea on how old we want to be before certain things happen. We want to start study at 17, work to management by the time we’re 27, start looking to start a family at 31 when the investments are good, and then travel at the age of 35.
But so many times there are “inconveniences” to our plans. Our promotion takes place earlier, or later. A potential love interest enters, or exits. A respected mentor criticizes our current trajectory, or reinforces a destructive trajectory in our lives.
We say “well, there’s a season for everything”. And this is certainly true. Planting seeds during a frozen winter is not always a good idea.
But on the flip side, let me put forward the suggestion that we may not be correctly recognizing the season in our lives. King Solomon said that whoever watches the wind won’t sow, and whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. In other words, we let the metrics we use for measuring our current season prevent us from ever doing anything.
And so you say you’re too young. Then you’re too old, or you’re too busy. So where was this magic time that would have actually been “the right time” to go for it? It was hidden under your indecision because you didn’t recognize the right time.
The right time rarely feels like it. I think of the Nativity story, or the anointing of the child David as the shepherd king of a great nation, or the calling of Gideon. I think of all the stories about business or influence or romance or other great things that started with “I didn’t think I was ready, but…”. Imagine if they had said “oh actually, I’m still waiting for the right time, but thank you”.
Let’s make sure the metrics we’re using for determining when the right time and the wrong time for certain things are actually correct and not ill-motivated or tainted.
There. I said it for you. Or I said it for them. So many times the word “waiting” is not waiting at all – it’s fear.
It’s amazing how many things in our lives fear holds us back from. We keep our lives closed for fear of opening up. We’re afraid of what change will mean. We had all these plans that we’ve established – this event, placement, or person will change all of those. We’re afraid that we’ll be seen for who we really are. We’re afraid that we’re not able to do what we’ve been called to do. We’re afraid if it doesn’t work out. We’re afraid if it does.
You can’t grab a hold of your future while you’re still holding on to your fear. Pick the one you want to let go of.
Hey, there’s many more reasons why we’ll use this phrase, and many more. If you’re someone who’s heard this phrase used around you, hopefully this has been helpful in understanding what might be going through their head. If you’re someone who’s used this phrase, maybe it’s been good to really assess what you’re actually waiting for. I just love to think through what we actually mean when we say things, so thanks for joining in on some musings of mine.
More often than not, the right time is today. The right time is now. Don’t let your opportunity pass you by because you were “waiting” for something you couldn’t describe.
Over to you – what do you think “I’m waiting” really means?