The word is synonymous with bad coffee, unsmiling customs officers, invasive security checks and the inevitable, unavoidable prospect of…
There’s just no way to escape it.
Unless, of course – you get bumped up to one of those magical classes where you’re offered a sparkling beverage as soon as you take your seat and the undivided attention of an accommodating air hostess. (Not that I would know anything about it, ha!) For most passengers, time is handed to you on a silver platter and the options for whiling it away are pretty much restricted to reading, stretching your legs on a trip to the bathroom, browsing through overpriced duty free stores or getting sucked into the black hole of social media.
My husband and I are walking through YVR after two weeks in B.C. with his parents, his sister and husband and their three beatiful kids, and I’m wondering where the past 14 days went. It feels like we were just here! Duty free fragrances waft around us, mingling with the clinical smell of anti-bacterial soap and the clingy odour of deep fried fast food. I shiver involuntarily, all the memories from our trip blurring together into one big recollection of toddler chatter and sticky hands and lingering family dinners outside in the spring warmth – moments that make life rich and hearts full. Sighing, I’m reluctant to leave it all behind again, but I guess holidays have to come to an end eventually. Heaving my travel bag over my shoulder, I walk faster in an attempt to keep up with my 6 foot 3 husband, who’s advanced some meters ahead and will soon disappear from view if I don’t pick up the pace. He loves to walk through airports with a sort of military determination – even though our destination is usually a waiting lounge – and today is no exception. I’m 5 foot 2ish and (unfortunately) wasn’t endowed with legs as long as firemen poles, so I have my work cut out trying to keep up. Today we’ll just have to be content with a few strides’ worth of distance between us.
Flashing advertisements assault our eyes as we navigate the maze of corridors leading to our boarding gate and a robotic voice cuts shrilly over the P.A. system, paging missing passengers. The blare of these announcements will soon turn into a monotonous soundtrack for the three hours of waiting we have to endure before we can board the plane from Vancouver to Phoenix.
Actually– make it four.
A loudspeaker announcement welcomes us at the gate with the news that our flight has been delayed by one hour. Warily, I let my bag slide to my feet with a thump. What goodwill I was harbouring up until this point suddenly feels like it’s balancing on a tightrope, teetering precariously over a dark canyon of frustration; frustration at the propensity of airline officials to toss people’s schedules around like they’re a plaything. However, some words I read recently in a very precious book come whispering through my heart again like a breath of fresh air:
“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”
I relax my shoulders, breathe in slowly and the canyon evaporates like mist. Now I’m frustrated at myself! Have I become so accustomed to western privilege that something as small as a 1 hour delay is enough to ruin my entire day?
If anything, the privileges I enjoy should highlight how much control I actually have over my life, and motivate me to choose maturity far more than I do. I meekly pick up my bag, follow my husband to a set of gate lounge chairs and settle myself down beside him as he buries himself in a Clive Cussler novel (who even is that?!). He seems to have accepted the circumstances with little external resistance. I look around, taking note of all the other people in the lounge and I could honestly watch them all day. People are interesting to me; I love trying to guess what they do for work or their personality types, based on their outfit choices and the way they interact with others. But I say “guess”, because I know you should never judge a book by its cover – external appearance is not always an accurate reflection of a person’s inner world.
A corporately dressed young man adjacent to me is typing busily away on his laptop, and an older couple sitting across from us chat quietly together, while a middle-aged man in the same row, sporting socks and tourist sandals, is engrossed in a paperback novel. I find myself wondering how comfortable tourist sandals actually are The world doesn’t revolve around you, Micah. These people are all in the same boat. And airport staff are simply doing their jobs. Most likely, they have nothing to do with the cause of the delay, so it’s pretty immature of you to even think of holding them responsible. They’re just the messengers, poor people! Compassion rises within my depths for them – they probably bear the brunt of the general public’s ill humour and aggression on a daily basis, and I’m ashamed to have come so close to contributing to it a moment ago.
You tend to see people at their best and worst in airports. There’s something about waiting (and waiting, and waiting) that wears hard on us, chips away at our carefully constructed exteriors…
I think back to the first security check we cleared today, and a middle aged woman with coiffed hair and immaculate make-up who’d smiled brightly at me over the divider tape. I’d returned the smile enthusiastically, glad of a break in the oblivious-to-anything-but-my-phone faces around us. Enthusiasm comes easy at the beginning, I remember thinking. But I can guarantee that her and I will be looking straight through each other, eyes a little glazed over and hair decidedly deflated on the other side of this 18 hour journey.
Waiting seems to diminish us.
But what if the waiting could make us bigger?! What if it could actually enlarge us?!
The thought hits me like a slap in the face, echoing something I’ve read before…
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
Romans 8:22 (The Message Bible)
“That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother.”
What if, instead of stressing about things we have no control over (like travel delays), or allowing the pressures and responsibilities we’re forced to postpone weigh on us like yoke on an oxen – what if we chose to embrace the waiting? What if it increased our expectancy and joy for life, rather than magnified frustrations? Maybe the limitation waiting imposes on us is actually a blessing, a forced slowing of pace. A narrowing of focus. What if we welcomed waiting as an opportunity, rather than an inconvenience?!
As a writer, every hour, moment and revelation holds something of weight that can be woven into words and left as a legacy for future generations, if I choose to put pen to paper. I’ve always believed that, and my love affair with words has been longstanding. But I’m starting to realise how increasingly distracted I’ve become with social media (as life gets more and more digital) and the constant exposure it offers to the accelerating careers, small business endeavours, networks, uni degrees, up-to-date fashions, health trains and exercise routines of my peers. I’m well aware that I’m looking at people’s highlight reels, but the more I look, the harder it is not to make comparisons. And comparison subtly builds pressure – pressure that screams “your meagre accomplishments just aren’t measuring up!” (With society’s standards of success, that is.) Social media is like a trash-can for time with no recycle option – wasted time is nothing but wasted time, and there’s no getting it back. But the struggle is real, nonetheless. We all contribute to it in some way. Why is it so hard for us to break the status quo? I’ve thought about this often, and it’s the reason why Jesus – the Savior – makes so much sense to me. He broke that status quo daily, and enables us by His Spirit to break free from it too. His word renews our minds, helps us to see the bigger picture – that there IS a grander, more glorious picture than simply what we know or think or see in front of us. Sitting here with nothing to do but wait, my own voice comes back to haunt me, lamenting wistfully “If only I had more time to write!” and I know I would be the biggest hypocrite not to do it, now. Here. It’s purely my choice. In this free country, how I spend my time is completely up to me, just as it’s my choice to let comparison rule me or not, and keep me from doing anything at all. That freedom of choice is probably the greatest ally I have. So Instead of refreshing my instagram feed for the 100th time in ten minutes, I rummage through my bag and get out my journal, opening it to a crisp, white page. Jesus, what can I learn here? I start scrawling across the top. What is it about waiting that you want to show me?
I think of all the things I’ve been given, like the time we just spent with family, and how amazing it actually is that air travel makes that possible. Things like good health and full strength. Like a home, a car, an amazing husband, a job that provides us with a steady income. As soon as I start listing the things I’m grateful for, I know the page will not have enough space to contain them all. Even small blessings, like a new pair of shoes – and the fact that buying them is an ordinary part of my life – makes me feel wealthy beyond measure when I think of all the people who would consider them a luxury. Suddenly seeing all these blessings written down – food, clean clothes, a place to call home, friends and family that love us – makes me realise that I really and truly have nothing to complain about. If I do, its probably for lack of maturity. That’s right. All this – every good and perfect gift – comes from above, it’s from YOU. All that I am is because of you. My God. My heart feels fit to burst at His goodness, freshly awakened to His grace, newly reminded of His faithfulness. I’m most thankful for this moment, thankful that He led me to fill it with gratitude. Because it’s what He will always deserve, but how often am I too obsessed with myself to give honor where honor is due?
And just like that, its time to go. Those 4 hours felt like a mere 10 minutes. I smile. It’s strange, isn’t it? The minute we despise the waiting, time seems to crawl, and it feels as if you can hear every second ticking by. Stress, impatience, anxiety, frustration – none of it speeds up the clock by a fraction of a second, or adds a moment to the length of our lives. It only alters the quality of them. But the moment we choose to embrace waiting, we begin to see that the time is just as valuable as any other time we’ve been given, and is full of exactly the same potential. It’s time we can still spend well, rather than dispose of like snack wrapping. When it feels like you’ve got all the time in the world, it comes as a shock to the system when that time is suddenly up. And it dawns on me now that I don’t want to live life that way, as if I’ve got all the time in the world. I want to live thankful for every moment, to produce fruit in every moment, so that when I look back I won’t be wondering where all my time went, but hopefully I will look back and feel immense gratitude for all the moments I got to spend creating a legacy for future generations. I wonder if my great grandchildren will find my thoughts interesting, intriguing? I wonder if they will appreciate the journals I leave behind, filled with thoughts and experiences that shaped my view of life, my prayers, poems, songs? I may never have the opportunity to do anything as noble as defend a nation, or save someone’s life, or speak to an arena of thousands. But I do want the generations after me to know of the joys I experienced being married to one man for my entire life and the struggles and complexities we worked through to protect our marriage, our friendship; I want them to know the lengths we went to for our families, and for those who didn’t have the same opportunities and privileges we did. I want them to see what I was thankful for, the prayers I prayed and how they were answered by an ever-faithful God; I want them to see the beauty in the things I gave my time and talents to, and what I worked hard to build; that I was never alone in it all, that I found my sustenance, strength, purpose and identity in the person and presence of Jesus. I hope – above all – that in the pages I leave behind, they will find Him.
I put away my journal tenderly, gather my things together and stretch slowly as I stand to my feet. Grant smiles at me, his green travel pillow a little lopsided. Cute. (He hates it when I call him cute, haha.)
I treasure my last, slow steps on terra firma as we trickle down the tunnel to board the plane, hand in hand. Knowing I’m about to sit stationery for the next 13 hours makes every step a luxury, and I’m not about to take that for granted!