By Norris Burkes Sep 11, 2020

Like most of you, I hate to wait in line. Truthfully, much of my 28 years in the Air Force can be summarized with the military oxymoron, “Hurry up and wait.”

My distaste for waiting is placated only when I hear someone pronounce the word “next.” 

“Next” becomes my favorite word when it signals that the line in the auto parts store or at airport security is moving forward. It means that I will soon command the undivided attention of the clerk or agent.

My favorite kind of lines are those  using number dispensers, such as in pharmacies, ice creameries and barbershops. I love holding that number as I listen to the clerk call each preceding one with the pleasant intoning of “next.” 

“Next” is a truly delightful place to find yourself, because it means that you’ve arrived where you want to be. Even better, it means that you’ve finally vacated the place you were and loathed, i.e., the waiting line.

But this pandemic presents us with a much different version of the dreaded que line. It’s become the most godforsaken and sadistic kind of wait – the line to illness, disability or perhaps even death.

Perhaps I’m spending too much time reading the stories of people who’ve lost their child, spouse or parent. It’s tragic to see that waiting line approach 200,000  U.S. deaths. 

I know that if I let fear possess me, I will be gripped with a sense of being the next person in line to know heartbreak. It makes me want to search the Bible for a promise that I won’t have to be next or that I can skip the line. Of course, there is no such promise. 

The truth is that there will never be any guarantee about what comes next in our world. I know this to be true because I’ve often come to the front of an airport line only to see it close. I was “next,” but now I’m suddenly transferred into a new line. That’s life.

So, instead of worrying about what may be coming “next,” I’m trying to refocus on what remains true in the present. For now, we have quarantine, unemployment and illness.

But I also must remind myself that I have family and friends that are still living with me in the here and the now. That presents me with a choice.  Do I sit around waiting for the next bad thing to happen? Or do I remain present to the people I love in my life right now?

I think you know my answer.  Now is always better than Next.

If I choose the now, I’m rewarded with the knowledge that God promises to wait with us in the now as well as in all the struggles to come. It is a promise made to us in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

I look at it this way: On some future day, my “next” will transform into my “now.”

That day will surely come too soon, so in the meantime, I will fight the struggle to live the life where God has placed me — in a life filled with the joy of the now.


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