I heard a podcast recently where Steve Macchia discussed 3 ways to approach decisions:

  1. Make a decision decisively.
  2. Involve others through conversation & deliberation.
  3. Wait.

Some of us are good at making #1 type decisions; others of us are not. But most of us know there are times when we simply need to act. If the building is on fire, not much deliberation is needed: Get out! If we get a call that someone we dearly love is in the hospital, we get in the car and go!

But most decisions are not of the immediate and urgent type. Should I take the promotion? Should I ask her to marry me? Am I ready to buy a house? How should I fill out my March Madness bracket? (Though no amount of deliberation would have led you to put St. Peter’s in the Elite Eight.) Most decisions don’t happen suddenly, and they don’t happen in isolation. We choose best when we take time and we involve others.

But what about category #3? What about … waiting?

It doesn’t seem to fit in the area of decision-making, because waiting by its very definition is not deciding. If I’m waiting, I’m not (apparently) doing anything. I’m not choosing, I’m not narrowing down, I’m not considering my options.

But what if waiting IS an essential part of decision-making? What if this one area, so difficult for so many of us, is a necessary part of any journey?

Consider someone who wants to get married. That person will likely have long stretches, even seasons, where nothing seems to be happening. No dates, no interest, no nothing. Just a lot of waiting.

Or how about the person who is retired, perhaps with little strength left or ability to “do” much that seems productive. No work projects, fewer relationships, perhaps no one who “needs” you. In other words, a lot of waiting.

Or maybe it’s a teenager who feels stuck in high school, just waiting for 18 and their senior year to finally get out and do what she wants. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, a 60-something man who still has 2 years left on his mind-numbing job before he retires and has the freedom to finally do what he wants. Once again, more waiting.

Very few of us like to wait. Ok, none of us likes to wait. Why? Because what we want hasn’t happened yet. We’re aiming for something, wanting something, longing for something — and it’s not here yet. And maybe we’re not sure when it will get here — if it ever does.

But of course, waiting doesn’t have to be passive. It can be a time of openness, of listening, of learning. It can be a time of becoming even if things don’t seem to be happening. I can choose a time of waiting as a time to trust, to grow, to be shaped by the circumstances I wish I could change, but can’t. Waiting isn’t deciding, but it might just be an important posture during a time when I want something to happen out there — when perhaps the most important thing is what is happening inside me.

We all go through seasons of waiting. And yes, there will come a time for deciding — hopefully with wise counsel from those we trust. But, as Steve Macchia points out, the most significant growth often happens in the times of waiting — when nothing appears to be happening.

When those times come, it just might be that the most dangerous approach will be to just do something. Deciding is important, but waiting might be even more so.

So, think of an area where you are facing some angst, some internal uncertainty, some concern, frustration, or turmoil. Perhaps that’s a sign that you need to make a choice. Or, maybe, just maybe, it’s an invitation to breathe, to listen, to slow down, to trust, and to wait.

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