Waiting is hard in an instant gratification culture


By Lindsay Steele

Advent is a time of waiting.

Anne Marie Amacher
Lindsay Steele stands next to a grandfather clock, whose arms are perpetually stuck at 11:56, at St. Vincent Center in Davenport Dec. 11. In her column, Steele discusses her personal battle with impatience and why the Advent season offers an opportunity to reflect on the need to wait with grace.

Most people don’t really like to wait. I recently read an anonymous reflection on fullycatholic.com that said, “Waiting is not something we normally celebrate; we like to have things instantly.”

My generation in particular has been accused of living in an instant gratification culture. At a recent young adult seminar at St. Patrick Church in Iowa City, the crowd erupted with laughter when Veruca Salt’s image appeared on the PowerPoint slide. “Don’t care how, I want it now,” the caption read.


I believe we laughed because, at our core, we hate having to wait for what we want.

We get annoyed when someone doesn’t text us back right away. We get annoyed by a red traffic light, whether we are running late or not. We are annoyed when a friend shows up 10 minutes late for a lunch date.

Well, maybe some people have the patience not to be bothered by such things, but regrettably I am not one of them. I have never been known for my patience.

I recall being a child and waiting for Christmas morning. Oh, how the days dragged on while the neatly wrapped gifts sat beneath the tree, seeming to mock me.

I remember waking up every hour, on-the-hour as Christmas morning slowly approached. At 6 a.m., I’d wake my parents, but they’d remind me that we couldn’t open presents until my sister awoke. Much to my dismay, no amount of “accidental” noise making seemed to wake her from her slumber.

Not much has changed since then, unfortunately. Even here in the office, I notice myself doodling or squirming in my chair if staff meetings run a little long.

I’m sure God knows that waiting is hard. Maybe that’s why four weeks every year — Advent — are dedicated to waiting and the virtue of patience.

I am beginning to realize that waiting with grace is important, perhaps because it is hard to be joyful with an impatient spirit. What I’ve learned over the years is that the time I spend being upset or anxious about waiting is not spent in the present moment. I recall going to California with college friends just after graduation. I was so upset about leaving behind my boyfriend at the time that I spent most of the trip calling him or being upset that it wasn’t time to go home yet. I even considered leaving early. I remember so little of that trip and regret that now. I could have had a lot of fun and built lifelong memories. My friends’ patience is a little better than mine — despite my faux pas, we’re still close.

Especially now, as my husband and I wait for God to (hopefully) bless us with children, I must remember to stay in the present and wait with grace. So often I say that we hope to start a family, but the truth is we do have a family right now — each other, our pets and our extended families. If I spend all my time being bitter about my infertility issues and anxious about the months that pass as we explore our permissible options, I won’t be able to be present and enjoy what I have right now. We could be waiting for years; I’d be wise to live them with a sense of gratitude.

I do not have the anecdote for an impatient spirit, though certainly I’d make a great test subject. Still, in the spirit of Advent, I feel challenged to give a healthy dose of patience a try.

(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at steele@davenportdiocese.org or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)

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