I never really cared for the Monopoly board game. My problem is that I could never decide which game piece I wanted to be. I hated the hat, and there’s no way I’d take the wheelbarrow.
As a child, I always wanted the race car. But when I tried to claim the race car, my big sister would usually twist it from my hand and force me to take the little Toto dog. I wanted the race car because I had a need for speed and the car always made me feel I was getting somewhere.
I like a game that takes me places, not one that keeps me waiting. Unfortunately, a random roll of the dice often sent me to the worst place on the board — jail. For someone with a wait-aversion, I hated jail because I was confined to watch my siblings pass me to collect their $200.
As a chaplain in the dual careers of military and hospital chaplaincy, I’m acquainted far too well with waiting. The most dramatic place I’ve played the waiting game is the hospital waiting room.
The room provides the setting for the hardest part of my job, waiting with people. When you are stuck in this waiting room with me, it doesn’t matter how important you are, how beautiful or rich or how careful you’ve been. You are wedged, fixed and trapped in a room full of people where life has told them they must wait.
For example, I’ve waited with women as they are hospitalized through high-risk pregnancies, praying for their 30th week to bring the best chance of their baby’s survival. I’ve waited with an agonizing father as he prays for pain medication to bring final comfort to his dying daughter. As a military chaplain, I’ve also waited with families as they hope against hope that the official confirmation of their loved one’s fate will be averted.
However, I’d say the hardest part about waiting with people in life’s waiting room is standing with those who have not previously established the grip of faith in their lives.
Faith is the grip the parachutist feels when his harness tightens. Faith is the grip the trapeze artist knows as she hangs for a second in midair only to be snatched by a skillful partner. Faith is the grip we feel that comes from just beyond the edge of the darkness in which we stand. It’s an authority that knows the darkness, but comes from the light.
Ancient Scripture tells of three men who knew the grip of faith while living through trying political times. When the men formed a prayer group, the king saw their formation as political protest and punished them by throwing them into a fiery furnace. I’ve been in some warm waiting rooms, but the thermostat in this room was out of control.
Witnesses saw the men rescued from the fire by a presence brighter than the fire itself, someone they described as “an Angel of the Lord.” But the real miracle wasn’t the angelic rescue; the real miracle was that the Angel went into the fiery room in the first place.
When life puts us in heated waiting rooms, we may not always be able to walk out unscathed. But my prayer for you is that you will know a faith that the New Testament writer in Jude 1 described as something that will “keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating.”
Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author of No Small Miracles. He also serves as an Air National Guard chaplain and is board-certified in the Association of Professional Chaplains. You can call him at 321-549-2500, email him at about:[email protected], visit website thechaplain.net or write him at P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759.