One thing about me: I like metaphors. They help me to get my thinking into an accessible, familiar package, and when they work best they provide me with insights into my own actions or feelings. Metaphors also make explaining things about me or my life to others a lot easier because they provide us all with a shared frame of reference.
I will first craft a potential metaphor to apply to any of the various challenges, people and mysteries in my life, then pepper it with all sorts of situational "what-ifs" to see if it rings true. When I find a metaphor that passes the tests, and ends up working for me most of the time in real life, I tend to hold it close.
One such "keeper" metaphor I've discovered is that of the waiting room, and I'd like to share it with you now, in case it might be of use to you as well.
We all visit waiting rooms, whether it's to see the doctor or dentist, to apply for jobs, to make sales calls, or to get our cars fixed, our taxes done, our dogs groomed, or our pizzas picked up.
Just as we can be stuck in waiting rooms for varying lengths of time, the waiting rooms themselves can differ greatly in their comfort and quality.
Everyone has their waiting room horror stories. You know how they go. You make your first appointment with a new doctor, drive to the clinic and step into a nightmare. The hot, humid room is crowded with coughing hackers, sneezing sprayers, mumbling droolers, squalling red-faced infants, and people having loud conversations on their cell phones about their domestic squabbles or their lunch plans or their chilblains.
You sit down in the one unoccupied seat -- next to a runny-nosed tot who proceeds to wipe his gelatinous hands on your new pants -- and then you rush off to the restroom to clean up, only to find that you're in the bracing wake of the guy with the gastrointestinal disorder. On your return to the waiting room, you sit down and look on the coffee table at your choice of exactly three magazines: Advances in Hernia Repair, Eczema Illustrated, and Pustule News and Comment. On the blaring TV mounted just above your head is a medical channel documentary on "Yeast Infections and You."
You are there 30 minutes, an hour, two hours, exposed to all sorts of diseases, your back pained by the uncomfortable chair, and when it comes time for your name to be called, it's discovered that they've lost your records, and you spend another 30 minutes filling out piles of insurance, medical history and other forms.
By the same token, we all have our dream waiting room stories. One time, I was scheduled to have some minor reconstructive work done by an oral surgeon I had never met before. When I entered his waiting room, it was as if I had come to the country club to meet guests for brunch and a game of tennis. Mozart played softly in a room that was tastefully appointed in the finest fabrics and colors. Along one wall, a large glass cabinet held the doctor's porcelain figurines and bric-a-brac collected from around the world.
The receptionist treated me as if I was the doctor's oldest and most generous patient. She offered me tea and soft drinks, insisted that I choose one of the imported chocolates in the bowl at the window, and bade me to sit down on one of the overstuffed couches and relax. I had my choice of a wide range of magazines -- everything from People and news magazines to the New Yorker and movie magazines and Sports Illustrated and more, all in the most recent editions. I remember being genuinely disappointed when I was soon called into see the doctor because I was unable to finish reading the fascinating article I had begun.
Now what is my point? It's this -- whether terrible or wonderful, both extremes of waiting rooms are just that, waiting rooms. Their only purpose is to give you a place to park your behind as you wait to fulfill the real purpose of your visit -- to have the disease treated, the job won, the sale made, the car repaired. They are not destinations in themselves, and whether tasteful or tasteless, none of us intends on spending more time in them than we have to.
Now, that seems so obvious that it's almost silly, but I find that when I treat the waiting room as a metaphor for a period in my life -- my work life, my love life, my spiritual life -- it sometimes shows me things I hadn't realized.
For example, I have had a number of jobs in my life that were not the jobs I was meant for -- not jobs which put to use the special talents and abilities and loves that God blessed me with. They were waiting rooms, jobs I took to pay the rent and keep the lights on while I looked for the real thing to come along.
I've been lucky in that almost all of my waiting room jobs have been in extremely nice waiting rooms. My fellow companions were intelligent and funny and friendly, there was lots of intellectual stimulation if I wanted to avail myself of it, I suffered no want of warm clothing and good food while I sat there, but I did sit there. And sit there. And sit there. Those jobs weren't what I supposed to be doing, and I either knew that at the outset, or realized it eventually.
By the same token, I once found myself in a waiting room romantic relationship. I pursued her because I was lonely, and because she was smart and funny and seemed to like me. We spent many wonderful hours together in that waiting room, watching TV and laughing, reading the travel magazines and planning trips we'd take together one day, and making friends with the other people who would come in and out. But I think I knew all along that it was just a waiting room, that although we had fun together, we weren't meant to be together as husband and wife, and that one day I'd meet a woman in the waiting room and leave immediately with her through the door marked "matrimony." Which I did.
Right now, I must admit that I'm in a sort of waiting room in my spiritual life. I know that God has something for me to do, but I'm not quite sure what it is yet. So I'm flipping through magazines and reading the book I brought, hoping that I'll get the call soon.
That's one reason I think Rick Warren's book The Purpose-Driven Life hit such a chord with so many people. It was addressed to people like me, sitting in life's waiting rooms, wondering if this is it, or if God has something bigger, something better, something more meaningful planned.
Don't get me wrong -- I believe that sometimes God wants us to spend a little time in the waiting room, to build up strength after a defeat, to learn a new skill, to let our hearts heal, to rest, to have a quiet place to listen for new instructions. But in the end, He doesn't want us staying there any longer than we should. He wants us to move on and keep our appointment with destiny.
Muley, the doctor will see you now.
Quote of the day:
"Don't let others spoil your faith and joy with their philosophies, their wrong and shallow answers built on men's thoughts and ideas, instead of on what Christ has said."
--Colossians 2:8, Living Bible