“Anonymous, liminal spaces where broken and hurting people go to get fixed.” That’s what I am thinking as I sit, silently people watching in a hospital waiting room.
It’s early morning in this particular waiting room and the still mandated masks contribute to the anonymity. It’s a busy place with ages spanning 10-month-olds to late life. The large and small, fat and thin, old and young, physically fit and not, black, brown, white, and all colors between are either finding their way to their appointments or waiting in chairs under glaring fluorescent lights.
In the western world it is unlikely that anyone will escape having a hospital waiting room experience at least once in their lives. The experience is a weekly experience for some, a once in a lifetime for others, and daily for a small but significant few. Unless we enter into conversation, we have no idea of the stories that have brought people into this place despite the fact that it is a shared space. Some people hide their anxiety and stress inside while for others it is out in the open, verbal and strong.
Adding to the general melancholy of the waiting room is the grey day that comes through the lobby windows. For now, the sun is covered, almost like hope itself is gone. We are all on hospital time, that unique time that begins the minute you enter a hospital and will continue throughout your stay. Minutes and seconds are replaced by procedures and diagnoses, bad news and good news, when the doctor comes and when she leaves. It has nothing to do with real time, and the quicker you accept that reality, the better you are.
In my reading the other day I read about King Hezekiah’s illness and recovery in the book of the prophet Isaiah. Hezekiah is what is described as mortally ill. He is going to die. He is in a waiting room of sorts when the prophet Isaiah comes to him and tells him that he won’t recover and that he should put his house in order. Hezekiah’s response is to weep bitterly and cry out to God saying that he had walked with and loved God. The subtext is clear – “God, give me more time. I’ve been faithful. I’ve obeyed you. I’ve tried to please you.” God’s beautiful response is in verse 5 of chapter 38.
I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears, so I will add fifteen years to your life.Isaiah 38: 5b
I read those words in awe, because isn’t that what all of us want in a hospital waiting room? Don’t we all want God to look at us and say those life-giving words “I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears.” For these are words that tell us we are seen, we are known, and we are extravagantly loved.
As I leave the hospital waiting room and look around for one last time, I pray these words over all those I see: “May God hear your prayer and may he see your tears.”
4 thoughts on “Hospital Waiting Rooms: “I have heard your prayers; I have seen your tears””
Oh my gosh I got an email alert with the title of this today while I was sitting in a hospital waiting room! So timely. Thankfully my husband’s stent surgery has gone well and he should be home tomorrow.
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Oh Kate! Thank you for telling me this. For me it was actually Wednesday. Thinking of you. ❤️
Oh This is beautiful – and my prayer for you.
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Thank you so much!