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The Waiting Room: How A Pause Can Fuel Your Personal Growth

By Jeff Henderson | August 25, 2022
The Waiting Room: How A Pause Can Fuel Your Personal Growth

Have you ever felt forgotten?

One time, during a doctor’s visit, they forgot about me. They led me to a room, shut the door, and never came back. I’m currently writing this from there.

Doesn’t life feel like that sometimes? It feels like we’ve been ushered into a waiting room and simply forgotten. Ever been there? Are you there now? On the journey to what’s next, you may find yourself in the waiting room.

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Waiting is hard and dangerous. It’s hard because we feel as though our life has been put on hold. No one likes being put on hold. It’s the place of bad music and wasted time. It’s dangerous because of what we decide to do or to not do.

When we find ourselves in the waiting room, we have three paths to choose from.

WAITING PASSIVELY.

Waiting passively is when we conclude that life is completely out of our control and we can’t do anything to move ourselves forward–kind of like being stuck in a doctor’s office and thinking you can do nothing about it.

Waiting passively is the land of video games and stacks of pizza boxes. It’s where we scroll through everyone else’s highlight reel on social media, falling for the illusion that their lives are problem-free while we’re stuck in the waiting room. It’s a vicious cycle that starts to spiral downward quickly.

This is also the place where our excuses start to cement in our soul.

WAITING RECKLESSLY.

Waiting recklessly is when our frustration boils over and we leap toward the best available option. We’re exhausted from being put on hold, so we hang up and move. I completely understand, but the stories of waiting recklessly are the ones I heard often as a pastor. This kind of waiting can create some deep scars.

Waiting recklessly sounds like, I’m not getting any younger, so I may as well take a chance and walk down the aisle with them. After all, no one’s perfect.

Or, Sure, it’s a lot of debt, but isn’t this how you build your credit?

It becomes the land of greatest regrets when we realize there can be worse things than waiting.

That’s the bad news. The good news is there’s another, better option.

WAITING ACTIVELY.

Waiting actively is when we combine wisdom, patience, and an intentional plan to leverage this season. There actually is something we should be doing while we wait. It’s not the land of passivity; it’s not the land of being on hold. It’s the land of wisdom.

Wisdom in the waiting room discerns the difference between waiting passively, recklessly, and actively. Think about these statements. Have you ever felt or said any of these?

“I’ve been forgotten.” That’s waiting passively.

“It’s my turn now.” That’s waiting recklessly.

“I’m being prepared.” That’s waiting actively.

You haven’t been forgotten. You’re being prepared. Believing these statements will help you see the waiting room as a gift, not a curse. It will also help lead you to discover what’s next.

THE MICROWAVE VERSUS THE CROCK-POT

We all know things taste better when they simmer for a long time compared to taking the microwave approach. And yet all too often we want our lives to be microwaved so we can just move on.

The waiting room is where we simmer. It’s where our greatest change takes place. It’s the seasoning, the refining, the long nights of uncertainty, where our character is formed, our values are decided, our souls are shaped.

When we bust out of the waiting room by acting impulsively or recklessly, we forfeit the simmering change that could have been.

“Waiting passively squanders the time. Waiting recklessly forces the time. Waiting actively leverages the time.”

To squander means we don’t take advantage of the personal growth opportunity the waiting room provides. To force means we decide it’s time, and so we move the season from the slow cooker to the microwave. In other words, we’re done. The impulse isn’t all bad. I don’t want to be a victim. I don’t want to be passive. Let’s take some action.

Those are actually good things. But if we’re not careful, we can miss the better option–waiting actively. We aren’t sitting quietly in the waiting room, just twiddling our thumbs as we wait to be invited into the exam room. We don’t simply endure the process; we grow through the process. Our time in the waiting room does not have to be wasted time.

WHAT TO DO IN THE WAITING ROOM

We all know stories (correction: we all have stories) of being so impatient that we decided to act. Now, action is powerful. There’s both wise action and the reckless kind. If we come storming out of the waiting room without a plan, we have the potential to recklessly wreck our lives. On the other hand, if we give up and remain passive, hope starts to fade.

As the old proverb says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

The waiting room is hard on our hearts. It feels like we’re stuck in a nondescript room, no door handle on the inside, a television on the wall where we see everyone else moving swiftly through their lives. Life is one big smile as one dream after another comes true.

That television, by the way, is called Instagram. And be careful of what you see. Far too often, Instagram just shows the highlight reels without the drama.

In fact, one of the best strategies to implement in a season of waiting is to cut way back on your time watching Instagram TV. You’ve been created to live your life, not someone else’s life. One of the many dangers of the waiting room is that hope can fade, and comparison can seep into your heart. I don’t want that for you. Heck, you don’t want that for you.

Instead, I want to give you a principle to hold on to during this season of waiting. Write it down somewhere and refer to it often.

Don’t let what you don’t know rob you of what you can do.

To wait actively is to understand there are things we don’t know. There are reasons for waiting that we can’t see right now. The best things take time. It’s not all on us. We can choose to be present while still being hopeful for the future.

I mentioned that waiting is hard. Isn’t that one of the more ironic aspects of waiting? It’s exhausting to do nothing. And yet don’t forget this message from A.L. Patterson:

  • Start where you are.
  • Use what you have.
  • Do what you can.

When we use what we have and do what we can, it’s amazing how much of a gift a season of waiting can be. You haven’t been forgotten; you are being prepared.

This blog post is excerpted from Jeff Henderson’s book, What to Do Next: Taking Your Best Step When Life is Uncertain.

About Jeff Henderson

A bestselling author and nationally recognized leadership expert, Jeff Henderson is an established presence in both the business and nonprofit worlds. He has contributed to well-known organizations such as the Atlanta Braves, Callaway Gardens, Chick-fil-A, and North Point Ministries, one of the largest churches in America. In 2017, Jeff was named by Forbes magazine as one of 20 speakers you shouldn’t miss. His passion is helping purpose-driven organizations flourish as they’re defined by what, and who, they’re for.

Wondering what your next step is?

So was Jeff when he left his comfortable position at Chick-fil-A. He experienced the uncertainty, the anxiety, the questions without answers. He knows what it’s like to be on uneven footing. That’s why he wrote What to Do Next: Taking Your Best Step When Life is Uncertain. If you’re navigating a new phase in your professional development, this book was written for you.

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