“You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…”
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
I love this book. Someone gave me my first copy of this book when I was headed off to college and it made me cry. It still makes me cry sometimes when I read it to my children because I’m just that kind of sap. I really feel it paints such an accurately simple picture of life. Except for the passage above. Every time I read this passage to my children, I always say, “Now the waiting place is not always a useless thing. Sometimes it’s a good thing to wait on G0d. G0d has things to teach you in the waiting place.” And I truly believe that.
Until I actually have to go through the waiting place myself.
When we first applied to come overseas with our current school, we had certain things in mind, and entering a perpetual waiting place was not one of those things. First there was the waiting during the application process. It’s no secret that the wheels turn very slowly during that process and uncertainty can hang on for months. For some people, the application process ends with a hire decision and they move to China. For us, the process has been very different. To make the long story short, the application process lasted about ten months for us.
When we finally moved, while my husband began his job as Videographer and my children began their jobs as pre-kindergartener and second grader, I was supposed to get the family ‘settled in’. I had no idea what that was supposed to look like. More uncertainty for me. Even though I’ve volunteered at the school and have kept busier than I thought I would, I’ve held on to this idea that I would teach this coming fall. I have been waiting for it and praying about it. I have been discussing teaching a foundations class in our Early Childhood Center with the ECC principal. We both thought I would be perfect for that position and I have even been preparing myself for my upcoming assignment by observing another teacher that also teaches a foundations class.
Then, last week, I was cordially invited into another waiting place. The ECC principal informed me that as of last week, they did not have the numbers registered to offer me the class for the fall. It was a disappointment for both of us. She assured me that they could get those students during the summer. Or, the elementary could have a position for me. But, we would just have to wait and see.
And about this time, I could just about lose my mind.
I’ve had about a week now to dive back into my internal world of uncertainty, a world in which I have not been comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming anyone. I really believe that the consistency of events in my life are too uncanny to contribute to mere human influence. No, G0d has me here in another waiting place. And I don’t think it’s the ‘most useless place’. I have discovered that there are some very useful places within the waiting place maybe Seuss overlooked:
1) The FAKE place
This is the place where I pretend that I fully accept my circumstances by telling myself, It’s alright, it’s just another opportunity to trust the Lord. I can just let go and let G0d. No big deal. When I’m in this place, spouting platitudes devoid of any real deep meaning to me, I’m usually trying to get to the ACCEPTANCE place by circumventing the more unpleasant places. Unfortunately, in G0d’s school, I don’t get to squirm out of the tough stuff by pretending that I’m in a place that I’m not. The only benefit to this place is that it exposes me as a fake once I just can’t pretend anymore.
2) The ANSWERS place
This place goes hand in hand with the FAKE place. This is where I get all old testament on the L0rd. I pray that G0d’s will be done and then throw the lot to find out what his will is. I lay out the options (as I see them) and ask G0d to move the Ouija board piece in my heart toward an outcome. I pray that He would reveal his will, but really I just don’t want to have to wait. Most of the time, when I’m in this place, He doesn’t say much. He knows the other places within the waiting place are more beneficial to me than simply hearing a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. Occasionally, I like to tell myself that I’ve received an answer in this place, but it usually isn’t the get out of jail card for which I’m hoping. The benefit of this place is, well, at least I’m praying, and getting no ANSWERS usually propels me into the more useful, although more painful, places.
3) The DECISIONS place
I begin to think about my options and try to make hypothetical decisions for differing scenarios. If __________ happens, then I will ___________. The infuriating part of this stage is that in the waiting place, I don’t know if _____________ is going to happen, so there aren’t any decisions to be made! It’s like my mind is a dog chasing her mental tail. The benefit to this place is I’m starting to scratch the surface of my crazy need to control everything, which is the beginning of the revelation that I put more importance on circumstance than I do on faith in my Creator.
4) The CRAZY place
This is the place where I begin to imagine, since I can’t make a decision about the limited options in front of me, that the whole world is now open to me. I can do anything, and so I try to mentally land on anything to avoid being in the waiting place. Maybe I could volunteer or tutor people in English. Or should I leaving teaching altogether? Maybe I need more education. Should I get my master’s degree? Or should I stay home? What if I stay home and take up guitar or piano or write a novel. Or should I just focus on volunteering at the school? This place is a bit like digging a pit, jumping in, and then trying to mentally bury myself. The benefit of this place is that I can now see that the thing for which I was originally waiting isn’t going to make me happy anymore than the myriad of alternative things will.
5) The DARK place
Once I’ve properly covered myself in confusion, it’s a little dark on the inside. My mind begins to drive me crazy with thoughts that I don’t want to think. I’m angry at God. I’m angry with people. I know I should wait patiently, but I don’t. I tell myself to stop it. But I can’t. I can’t control my thoughts anymore than I can control circumstances. So, I find myself waging war against myself, which leads to stress, which leads to exhaustion, which leads to depression. This actually may be the most useful place of all because in it I discover my true need for Him deep, deep down. Often, in this place, G0d gently reminds me that he still loves me. Here is where He can again tell me that I am treasured beyond what I do and do not do.
5) The PRAYING place
Usually after all the other places, I find myself in the PRAYING place. I land here not because I am ‘oh so holy’, but because I truly don’t have anywhere else to turn. I stop praying for ANSWERS and start praying with no end in mind, just me speaking my heart to my Friend, bringing Him my burdens. This place is useful for obvious reasons.
6) The ACCEPTANCE place
This is where I get to rest in His arms and realize that He isn’t through with me yet. It’s where I see the value of the waiting and the value of all the turmoil that waiting pulls to the surface. This is NOT always the most beneficial place because it feels so good to be here, but it doesn’t always last forever! I often find myself back down in the DARK place or the CRAZY place and I tell myself the lie that if I were spiritual, then I would be in the ACCEPTANCE place. And guess where that lands me? Right back in the FAKE place.
And, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, all of a sudden, the waiting place is over and we do find the ‘bright places where boom bands are playing’; but hopefully not before G0d is finished doing his thing on the inside.
So, despite Dr. Seuss’ glorious wisdom in other matters, I think I’ve settled that this waiting place really is useful…at least that’s the way I feel about it now.
Ask me again when I’m back in the dark place 🙂