The weight in the room is so heavy I have to remind myself to breathe. Every seat in the courtroom is full and law clerks, bailiffs, and lawyers are scurrying around preparing for the judge to arrive. Across the room, I observe a handcuffed woman looking out into the crowd desperately trying to get her mother’s attention. The look on her face echoes the general feeling of the room — fear, shame, and loneliness. We are in the painful depths only found in the waiting. In my mind, I begin to feel that slow jerky motion and clicking I associate with the start of a rollercoaster. With every click, my anxiety heightens as I acknowledge my lack of control over what will happen next. I begin to hold my breath, tighten my fists and stiffen my body in a futile attempt to control what’s on the other side of this mountain.
We all rise as the judge enters the room and then mindlessly flow into the usual court protocols finding some sort of relief in the routine. We then wait for her name to be called. She rises as instructed by her lawyer. After she sits, the proceedings continue and again we are trapped in the clicking and jerking motion on the waiting. What will he rule? Will it be jail time or maybe the grace of probation? Part of me wants the pain to just go away, even if it means jail time. While the other part of me lives in the hope of grace. So we wait, enduring the discomfort. The woman sitting next to me is enduring by reading scripture on her BibleGateway App, as a man a few seats over to my left plays an endless game in solitaire. I scan through my social media apps in an attempt to numb the discomfort of the moment.
After an hour of waiting, her lawyer approaches and says the hearing will be delayed for a month because the prosecutor is unavailable to attend today’s proceedings. We file out of the courtroom knowing this means another month of living in the waiting. So we remind ourselves to breathe and take a step forward into the unknowing.
All of us have these seasons of living in the free fall of The Waiting:
Birth after a difficult and uncertain pregnancy
Caring for a chronically ill child
Applying for the “dream job”
Finalizing a divorce
Waiting for the “diagnosis”
Awaiting the college acceptance letter
Like most people, over the years God has given me (in my not so humble opinion) way too many opportunities to learn to live in the waiting. In this time I have learned one simple thing that enables me to, not just survive these times, but to live fully in joy. I Just Breathe. Not the shallow breathing filled with anxiety, but the deep diaphragmatic breathing used by vocalists. The kind of slow, intentional, life-giving breathing that Job talks about,
“The Spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
It is when I remember to allow God’s presence to fill me, like breath in my lungs, that I am awakened to all that is around me. I begin to see the beauty of my view from the top of the rollercoaster, hear the laughter and cheers of my fellow humans, and take in the smell of sugar-packed carnival food. As I allow myself to relax and receive the joy of God’s presence and His beauty around me, the anxiety-inducing jerking and clicking loses its power over my senses. It doesn’t remove me from The Waiting, He just shifts my focus.
As I write, I am counting the minutes until my rheumatologist appointment where I will finally learn why I’ve slept through a good portion of the last 6 months. So I sit here reminding myself to Just Breathe.
Postscript - I had my doctors appointment. There is no definitive diagnosis right now. All I know is that the vitamins and a healthier diet are helping. So in some ways, I still sit in the joy of waiting.