I’m a nut about words. I love words, especially beautifully crafted words. Webster’s Dictionary has a very short definition of a ‘wordsmith.’ A skilled user of words. I’m not convinced I’m a wordsmith, but I do love to read writers who exhibit extraordinary skill in how they craft their words. Meanings of words, definitions of words, their parts of speech. I love to study words.
Well, the other day as I was thinking about a word, a strange realization came into my head. I was thinking about the word, ‘wait.’ W.A.I.T. It’s a homonym, of course. W-a-i-t has the same pronunciation as ‘w-e-i-g-h-t.’ Two different words, with exactly the same pronunciation are what linguists call ‘homophones.’ And, I know ‘w-a-i-t’ is also a verb. I’ve known since I was in the fourth grade that verbs are either words that describe actions, or what Miss Jordan, my fourth grade teacher called ‘state of being’ or passive words. Is, are, was, were? Those are all verbs, but they’re not actions. They describe a ‘state of being.’
Those two distinctions about verbs is what caused me pause the other day, as I thought about the word, ‘wait.’
When I looked up the definition for ‘wait,’ I read ‘to stay where one is, or delay action until a particular time or until something else happens.’ Well, if ‘wait’ is a verb, an action word — how can staying where you are, or even ‘delaying action’ be part of defining the word ‘wait.’ When I wait, what action am I engaged in?
I guess you could say I’m engaged in the action of delaying action. When I wait … am I being passive, if I’m not active? I think that depends on what I’m NOT doing in the midst of my wait.
The bible, of course, which is the most beautifully written book ever compiled by God’s own choice wordsmiths, has so much to say about that word, ‘wait.’ Ps. 27, and again in Ps. 37 gives the admonition: ‘Wait on the Lord ….” The book of Lamentations has something to say, too: “It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the Lord.”
Why is it good that one should hope and wait for the salvation of the Lord? I think it’s because something very active happens in my life of faith when I wait on the Lord. To wait requires my active patience, not my passive compliance. The presence or lack of patience in a life can be a beneficial tools for assessing maturity, have you noticed? Babies have a terrible time with waiting for anything. When I wait, I am active in my patience. That active patience isn’t because I don’t have anything better to do with my time. Rather, it’s a constant admission: “I need God’s help, and my wait represents my willingness to leave my need with Him.
Isa. said it well, under the inspiration of God’s spirit: But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.
Nothing passive about the verb ‘wait,’ then. You might even say ‘wait’ is a weighty word, with hefty implications for my life. It is better to stand still and wait on God than be moving at breakneck speed toward anything else.