I spend a lot of time waiting for other people. In my work, I wait for feedback and approvals. I wait for the more decision-impaired members of my family to make their selections whenever we go out to eat. I wait in lines at the grocery. I wait on hold for customer service. I wait for the book I really want at the library to be available to check out.
Have I mentioned I hate waiting?
I have friends who are celebrating the SCOTUS ruling on marriage, who feel they had to wait too long for that change. I have other friends who are mourning the shootings and church fires in South Carolina, wondering how much longer the wait for racial justice will be. I have friends who are waiting for marriage proposals, for positive pregnancy tests, for No Evidence of Disease, for so many things that mean “and then, my life can go on” to them.
We went to church this week, for the first time in ages. The sermon focused on The Lord’s Prayer, specifically the desire for “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In other words, “How long will we have to wait until every tear is dried and every sad thing made untrue?” I may not know exactly what that will look like, but I have enough faith to believe it will be good. That it will be better than anything I can currently imagine — and as a speculative fiction author, my powers of imagination are not inconsiderable.
We all hate waiting. I think a big part of that feeling is because waiting is an acknowledgement that we are not in control. The world, and other people, do not bend to our will on demand. Granted, there are matters of justice where the world should change. And part of my faith is holding on to the belief that those things will change, but not on my personal timetable. And anyone who knows me well knows that I am really, really attached to my personal timetable.
I’m not saying the desire for change, and change now, is entirely self-centered. I’m saying it’s all too easy to get bound up in useless outrage, and paralyzed by our impatience. To become so fixated on the unresponsive that we ignore the possible and available.
When I find myself stewing in impatient frustration, raging against the things I can’t change, I miss out on the thing I am free to change: Myself. When I focus all my energy and attention on people and systems and situations which are 100% immune to my influence, I’m missing out on people and system and situations where my influence is deeply needed. I’ve benched myself from a game I could actually help win.
We’re all waiting for the world to change. But the world doesn’t change until we do. It’s up to us whether we change for the better, or the bitter.