We are living in one of the more difficult times in the life of our country. The civil disturbances we’re witnessing, on top of the problems brought on by Covid-19, and the political backstabbing that occurs during the run-up to our November elections, are only part of the challenges that our nation is now facing. If you add to these a new record unemployment, racial profiling, attacks and killings, coupled with the closing of businesses and schools in March, and its resulting restlessness for many virtually taught students and young adults, you have the makings of a societal volcano pouring forth the steam that usually precedes an eruption. How do we channel our energies when our frustration with “the system” seems to be pushed to the limit, or when we seem to be unable to control certain happenings that will inevitably come our way?
A few weeks ago, I needed to clear up a charge on one of my bills. It wasn’t a super large amount of money, but it was enough that I didn’t want to just let it go by. I looked up the company’s website and tried to navigate my way through it. That was a mistake because I’m really one of those computer illiterates that wastes a lot of time trying to work my way through a maze of terms that I don’t truly understand (although fourth-graders can whiz through these items). After giving up, out of sheer frustration I looked up the company’s phone number to get customer service. When I called the number and went through the menu options on the keypad on my cell phone, I was finally able to reach the number of the customer service representative. Then, I got a recording that indicated I would be put on hold and my call would be answered in the order in which it was received. Hoping that I would be able to speak with a real live person, I put my phone on speaker and started wading through a pile of paperwork on my cluttered desk. I was on hold for about 25 minutes before a live-voice representative answered my call! Happily, it took just a few minutes to get the issue resolved. I was told that, in the future, it might be better to use their website to get an answer. I told them that I tried that and that it was better to wait to get a live voice to help me solve my problem than trying to navigate their website. The representative said: “We know what you mean.”
Being put “on hold” seems to be a dreaded experience. Nowadays we seldom get to talk to someone personally without first having to spend at least some time listening to music or advertisements for things we don’t want or need and have no intention of buying. But, being put “on hold” doesn’t have to be complete waste of time. In fact, if you plan ahead, it’s possible to do something productive while you’re “on hold.”
I was reflecting on our current situation with the Corona virus pandemic, which, for most of us, can feel like our lives have been put “on hold” regarding our formerly normal activities and routines that now have been interrupted or suspended. Certainly, this is true for me. The thing is, though, that while at first I was a bit flustered by this, I realized I had a choice. One option was to look at this time of being “on hold” as a burden and a pain, and complain about it to anyone who would listen. The other option was to see this as a time to do new things, or to learn to do some usual things in a different way. After a few weeks trying out the first option, I realized that it wasn’t doing me any good. So, in praying about it, I decided I needed to use the time of being “on hold” as a time of new opportunity, and perhaps even a unique occasion to embrace a new grace.
While I still see this time as somewhat a burden and annoyance, what has changed is that I don’t carry this attitude around all the time. I’ve also started trying to be more aware of, and grateful for, the blessings I enjoy in my life. That has made a difference in my prayer life, which, in turn, has made a difference in the way I approach people and events and such things. That’s not such a bad thing, is it?
Being put “on hold,” while certainly not exciting or pleasant, actually can become an occasion of grace. But, it all depends on whether we will be open to that grace, and let it become part and parcel of a “new normal” – the way we eventually may come to live the rest of our life.