I don’t really care for the game of Monopoly. I could never decide which game piece to choose. I hate 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 out of my hand and I’d end up with, you guessed it, the little Totolike dog. The race car always made me feel I was getting somewhere.
The truth is that it’s my need for speed that makes me hate the game. I hate to wait. I like to go places, but I usually land in the worst place on the board: jail. The jail is the worst place because it means waiting.
As a hospital chaplain, I’m acquainted with waiting. And the most common venue for that experience is the waiting room.
In the waiting room it doesn’t matter how important you are, how beautiful or rich or careful you are. It just doesn’t matter, because nearly everyone in the room is waiting where life has told them they must wait. This room provides the setting for the hardest part of my job, waiting with people.
For example, I wait with women through their high-risk pregnancies as they pray for their 30th week to pass and the survival odds for the fetus become substantially better. I wait with a father agonizing over the time it takes his dying daughter’s pain medication to become effective. I wait with military families as they hope against hope the official confirmation on their loved one’s fate will not come.
I’d say that the hardest part about waiting with people while they stand 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 a grip that comes from just beyond the edge of the darkness in which we stand. It’s a grip that knows the darkness, but comes from the light.
The Bible tells of a three-man group who knew the grip of faith while living through some trying political times. The men formed a prayer group, but the king took exception to people bowing down to anyone but him. So, the king ordered the men thrown into a fiery furnace. I’ve been in some warm waiting rooms, but the thermostat in this room was out of control.
From the midst of that furnace, came a brighter presence than the fire itself. Witnesses called the presence, “an Angel of the Lord.” From the time I first heard that story in Sunday School, I’ve always thought that the real miracle of the story wasn’t that the three men were unscathed, but that the Angel went in with the men.
When life puts us in the waiting room, our faith is the thing that can really sustain us. Few of us like waiting, but when life pulls us into the waiting room, our faith helps give us a grip 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.”