(Somewhere along the line, visiting people in the hospital got rolled into the job description of the minister. There are probably some good reasons for this. There is also some really faulty thinking, both theological and practical, associated with this practice. I’ll leave that discussion for another time.)
I’m camped out in a hospital waiting room again this morning. It’s packed with people waiting to hear news about their loved ones. I’m sitting next to a man about my age. His wife is having some pretty serious surgery and he’s scared. I can see it in his body language and I can hear it in his voice. He’s been on the phone to another family member most of the time we’ve been here. Maybe we’ll talk later.
There’s another family…wife, kids, both sets of grandparents…waiting on news about their husband/dad/son. They are masking their concern with lots of “family” conversation. The kids are buried in their computers with headphones on. I wonder what’s really going on in their hearts.
There’s lots of hugging and soft words. Nervous laughter and stretching and yawning and pacing back and forth to the coffee machine. Waiting room hosts try to make it feel like home. Nice try.
All who are here share one thing in common:
We are all completely out of control. Sitting in hospital waiting rooms, family can do nothing. And they know it. Their loved ones are in God’s hands…or doctor’s hands…depending on how you look at it. Some are praying. Some are trying to think positive thoughts. Some are avoiding thinking at all.
Hospital waiting rooms are where people are forced to face what they believe. About God. About death. About hope. About fear. About the future. For some, the waiting room is embraced. The wait is good and the unknown is not the enemy. For others, the wait is dark and lonely…even if they are surrounded by friends and family.
The hospital waiting room exposes people. Maybe not to those who are sharing the space with you, but you are exposed none-the-less. Your fears are laid bare. Your powerlessness is magnified. There is nothing you can do but…wait. Oh, you can pray and read or write, but more than anything else, you are left to be reminded about what you believe and where you place your trust…while you wait.
That’s why it’s called a waiting room.