If you’ve ever found yourself waiting for something in your life that you thought should already be happening, then you know all too well the pain of standing still. And you’ve probably wanted to know how to be patient in the midst of life’s delays. Here’s a quick story that I think will help you out:
One morning years ago, when our son Jackson was in daycare, his school was delayed for two hours because of freezing temperatures and ice on the roads. Of course, my son didn’t mind at all. I, on the other hand, was frustrated because a school delay meant I had to go to work late, which meant I had two hours less to make progress toward accomplishing something.
And it’s not like two hours was enough time to plan anything with my son. It wasn’t enough time to go take some cool adventure together – it was just waiting time. Time to sit around and wait for school to start, and I was over it.
Unfortunately, life’s filled with delays. And most people – myself included – absolutely hate them.
A delay is an unexpected or undesired gap in time between when you think something should happen and when it’s actually going to happen.
That day, I thought I would drop my son off at school at a certain time, and I had a plan for getting to work and getting things done based on that timeline. But reality didn’t line up with my expectations, and I ended up in what I perceived as a delay.
What’s interesting is, delays are subjective. They only exist in our minds.
In my mind, anything past a 7:30 am drop-off time at daycare was “delayed.” But time is time – it’s not partial to me, you, or anyone else. Which means, delays are subjective. They’re times in life when we’ve set your minds on an expectation that isn’t currently happening in the timeline we want. So we call it a delay.
It’s nothing to get upset about, it’s just that our desires aren’t lining up with reality.
In reality, “delayed” time is just as valuable as “non-delayed” time. There’s still opportunity there for good things to happen, it just might look differently than you wanted.
So this my encouragement:
We all have things that we think are late or postponed. Especially right now. We all find ourselves in unexpected gaps in time between what we want and what our current reality is.
This happens in our careers, relationships, family, social life, spiritual life – you name it – any area of life where you’ve realized that what you thought would or should happen is not currently happening like you expected usually gets labeled in our minds as a delay and is therefore somehow less valuable.
That morning, I saw myself getting my son to school early so I could get to work and get a jump on my day. I had a plan for the progress I wanted to see happen, but it didn’t work out that way.
So, there were two options that morning with my son:
Option A: Sit around and wait
Option B: Fill the gap
We took option B and went to Chick-Fil-A and spent time together. It wasn’t extravagant, but it filled the gap with something useful and it allowed us to do something together that built our relationship.
We could have gone back to bed. Or I could have given him some toys and let him play in his room while I went back to bed. I could have turned on cartoons in his room while I watched TV in the other room, I could have worked from home for those two hours, I could have done a lot of things to “kill time”. But why do we “kill” time when time is such a valuable thing that we can’t get back?
Instead, that morning we used our time to do something we didn’t get to do a lot – spend time together one-on-one.
Look, I realize that school delays are a little bit easier to fill than some of life’s longer delays. But it got me thinking:
Aren’t all delays really just an imagined paused button that we place on ourselves? I mean, delays are really just shifts in time slots. When a delay happens, a time slot opens, and what we usually consider to be delays are really just opportunities to do something else.
So, I started thinking. When delays happen, how am I responding? Do I complain? Do I sit around waiting and wishing for the delay to be over? DO I get caught up in daydreams about what my life will be like after the delay is over? Do I just get mad that there’s a delay and give up altogether? Even worse, do I put my life in cruise control, then sit back and coast?
It’s tempting to try to either “wait out” delays or avoid them altogether. But some delays just cannot be avoided. Sometimes, no matter what you do, no matter how hard you work, you just can’t shorten the delay.
My son’s school was GOING to be delayed two hours. It didn’t matter how much I wanted it not to be so, it didn’t matter who I called or what I did to shorten the delay, it wouldn’t have changed a thing.
And here’s something to think about: That delay was there for a reason – to protect us from something potentially harmful, which in this case was icy roads. If the school had shortened that delay it would have only put people in potential danger.
Look, life works in seasons, and some things only happen in due time. Some things only come with patience.
When you’re baking brownies, it doesn’t matter how much you want the brownies or how hard you work to bake them, it’s still going to take the exact same amount of time in the oven.
You could increase the heat, but then they won’t cook right.
You could take them out early, but they won’t be done. They might be edible, but they won’t be at the full capacity of what they could be. They’ll probably just be mushy and taste weird.
Some things in life simply need a certain amount of time – a certain amount of delay – in order for them to work out right.
So, what are you doing while the brownies are baking?
You have to have an oven mitt, plates, silverware, milk, ice cream, etc. You could be using your time to make sure you’re prepared to enjoy them when they come out. Because I promise you brownies taste best when they’re prepared right.
You could use your time waiting on the brownies to hang out with family, clean the kitchen, read something good, or a hundred other useful activities.
When you fill the gap with useful things, I guarantee you the wait isn’t nearly as bad.
So whatever delay you’re facing, remember:
There will always be obstacles outside of your direct control. The question is, what are you doing with what you can control right now?
Are you sitting around, “waiting it out”? Or are you filling the gap with something useful?
Because here’s what I’ve learned: Almost everything truly good in life happens in the gaps.
On its most basic level, life’s really just a gap in time, and the value of a life is ultimately measured by how the gaps are filled. So the real question is, how will you fill the gap?