Acts 1:3-5 Jesus appeared to the apostles over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Waiting is built into the medical system. Hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices all have spaces set apart just for waiting. If you’re a transplant patient or family member, waiting becomes a major part of your life. You can either endure it—go into a sort of mental lala land when you walk through the door of a waiting room—or you can choose to make those endless, uncountable hours count.
Karis, of course, chose the latter. For her, waiting rooms were ideal spaces for connecting significantly with other patients and their families or friends.
But there was another sort of waiting that was much harder for us to manage: the wait for a transplant call. We went through this twice, the first time for eight months, and the second time for about seven months, knowing she might not survive that wait. But of course we didn’t know how long the wait would be. It’s so much easier to wait when you know it will be “about 45 minutes.” Or “just a couple more hours until we arrive at our destination.” Or, as Jesus so graciously told his disciples, only “a few days.”
Since Karis and I had no idea when the call might come, we woke up each morning thinking, “It could be today!” That daily possibility limited us. Had we known it would be eight months, we could have made all kinds of plans. We could have traveled, taken on projects or jobs or classes, rather than continue day after day after day in this limbo of waiting.
At least, that’s what we told ourselves. The reality was that Karis wasn’t well enough to commit herself to much of anything. She volunteered to be an after-school tutor, but only managed to do it twice in a couple of months, thus more of a liability than a help, leaving her assigned child in the lurch. She applied for a fast-food job, but wasn’t able to complete even one shift. She tried online translation jobs, but failed to make the deadlines. How many times can one say, “Sorry, I was in the ICU”? She tried taking community college courses, but missed too many classes to make the experience worthwhile.
This uncertain waiting time deeply affected me, too. I had left a very busy, productive life in Brazil to suddenly find myself just—waiting. Waiting in a foreign-for-us city. Caring for Karis in her ups and downs, ins and outs from the hospital. Figuring out a day at a time what she was well enough to do that morning, or that afternoon. One of the hardest things for me was the fact that I had left behind in Brazil a just-turned-sixteen-year-old daughter, whose father traveled constantly and was not able to provide her a stable sense of home. What was God doing? Was I in the right place, doing the right things? What about all the important commitments I had left behind in Brazil? I didn’t know who I was, or how I fit in this new place, other than as an appendage of Karis.
During that time, God’s promises became very important to me, especially this one: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And this: “NOTHING can ever separate us from God’s love. . . neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow.”
Ironically, when everything started going wrong after Karis’s first transplant, I found myself wishing we could go back to that waiting time. I wished we could have waited a little longer, until an organ came along that was a better match for Karis’s immune system, though I don’t know how that could have been discerned. I try to remember, now, when I’m waiting for something, that I don’t want to cut the waiting time short, if it means the outcome will be less optimal than it could be were I more patient. “In the fullness of time,” that old-fashioned phrase from the King James version in Galatians and Ephesians, that’s what I want in regard to the big stuff. Not stress or pressure or rush, but trust.
This week, as liturgically I wait with the disciples for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit poured out on Pentecost, I want to practice trust in each area that has me waiting on God. Will you join me in asking for the gift of trust for those things it seems God is being slow to respond to in your life?