Filling the Pot: Learning to Wait

Recently, I thought about how many things I was watching and waiting for. How many hours have I spent, how many thoughts, and how much time have I devoted to watching and waiting? Life is replete with hopeful expectations and moments of waiting. Watching means we’re often waiting for something, but waiting sounds horribly inconvenient and causes an immediate visceral reaction, a stiffening of my jaw and lines furrowing my forehead.

“Wait” feels like a forbidden, outlawed word . . .

The word “wait” feels like a forbidden, outlawed word, even though we’re all in waiting rooms of one kind or another. We don’t know how to wait, because we’ve been conditioned to expect an immediate response.

Some folks know how to scan the changing colors of the sky and discern if it will rain or snow. There are those who carefully observe the land and its creatures for signs of the changing seasons, who can watch squirrels building nests in the autumn to predict if we’ll have a snowier or earlier winter than usual.

Years ago, before mobile and smart phones, I’d wait for phone calls when phones were attached to walls with cords. I’d watch the phone, willing it to ring, filled with teenage impatience and angst. I’d wait to watch my favorite TV shows each week. After that, I’d wait for the reruns and watch them again. I’d listen to the radio, waiting for the DJ to play my favorite songs.

I wait for answers to all kinds of questions. A GPS with detailed notes and plans would do nicely, but no divine plans drop from the sky into my lap, informing me exactly what to do.  

As I wait for every ounce of frozen blood in my veins to thaw, I look for signs of spring, albeit impatiently.

When I walk toward my mailbox each day, I am hopeful for the rare gift of a handwritten letter to surprise me. I await smiles, even ones from strangers, and hugs from friends.

I’ve missed the nuances and subtleties of conversation, as I schedule videoconferencing appointments and talk to others through a digital screen. It’s much more difficult to observe facial expressions, eyes, and gestures, and wait for my turn to speak in a conversation through a device.

I watch what I say and do sometimes as a brown person, and I tiptoe around people who aren’t safe. I read the news and wait for the next tragedy to happen.

Sometimes, I forget to wait for good news to come. Lately, I’m stiffening and waiting for the next tragedy to unfold instead of the unexpected grace of beauty and goodness. Something good could happen, but I catch myself waiting for the worst. Maybe you, too?

Nowadays, I don’t have to wait for a friend’s phone call anymore, because I have my choice of a dozen ways to instantly communicate. I’ve become accustomed to instant messaging and movies that stream immediately for my own amusement. I don’t have to wait for the music I enjoy—I can create a playlist and play it whenever I darn well please. No waiting. No lines. Instant. Immediate. Quick. Easy. Fast.

Something beautiful is birthed out of long durations and stretches of waiting.

I don’t usually sit and watch with serene patience. I am not a patient person. But I do know a perfect time and purpose exist for our hopes and dreams. I watch buds and leaves emerge after heavy winter snows, and I learn it will happen when it’s supposed to happen, and I can’t rush or force it. Something beautiful is birthed out of long durations and stretches of waiting.

Maybe the wait is 4 days, 40 weeks, or maybe it is 40 years.

How do we convey the beauty of waiting and watching to a world spinning in the opposite direction, moving faster and faster, a world accustomed to instant gratification, instantaneous likes, and the immediate dumping of information and continuous visual experiences? 

I’m reminded of an old fable of a king who announced that anyone who wanted to be his personal assistant should meet him. Many people showed up, eager for the opportunity. The king led them to a pond and said, “Whoever will empty this pond’s water with this pot will be chosen for this post. But remember, there is a hole in the pot.”

Some people thought the task would be futile, and left without trying. Others tried once and then gave up, saying, “The king has already chosen someone else. Let’s go.” 

But there was one man who continued filling the pot with pond water. He filled the water in the pot from the pond and came back out on the ground. Always within a few moments, the water leaked from the hole in the pot on the ground. Yet, this man repeated this same task over and over. At last, the pond became empty. The man found a diamond ring in the empty pond and gave it to the king. At this the king said, “This ring is a reward for your patience and hard work. You are fit for the job.” 

We’ve all got ponds we’re draining and leaky pots we’re filling. Maybe we’re moving through multiple ponds at once. Maybe the water is murky, gross, and cold, and we may look like fools. All I know is this: while we wait and watch for whatever it is we are waiting for, we too have a king who watches us, never sleeps, and is patiently waiting for us with open arms. 

Image Credit: Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

Prasanta Verma
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