Not surprisingly, the US Presidential election results were not immediately known in the hours immediately following the polls closing on Tuesday, November 3. With much higher numbers of absentee and mail-in ballots to count this year due to Covid-19, election officials in several states signaled that it would likely take several days to get an accurate result.
News outlets attempted to fill their usual “Election Night” programming with reports, prognostications, and county-by-county breakdowns in some battleground states. However, no one (well, except for one of the candidates,) was comfortable declaring a winner before most viewers signed off for the night.
The following days have brought a flurry of statements, news reports (with varying degrees of veracity,) and legal maneuvers, but no official announcement as of this posting. Like many others, I expect demands for recounts and other challenges in court, potentially delaying the final result for several weeks. While the circumstances are quite different, much of the feeling is similar to that of the 2000 contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
Tom Petty once wrote, “the waiting is the hardest part.” There is no denying that waiting is one of the most challenging activities of our existence. In “Not Doing,” D’Sousa and Renner recall the old joke about Hell as a waiting room. They write, “We put too much emphasis on activity, getting things done and being in control; do everything we can to evade experiences of passivity and waiting.”
Certainly some are better at waiting than others. Some must fill the time doing something, or at least giving the appearance of doing something. To be seen sitting and waiting would mean that things are beyond one’s control. Of course, many things are beyond one’s control, but if a person’s image and identity is built around, “I alone can fix this,” the worst thing one could do would be nothing.
Others seem to possess more patience, a greater understanding of the process, or the inner peace simply to accept the things that cannot be controlled. This is not idle or passive, but a choice to focus one’s energy in a positive direction, even while living in the tension of uncertainty.
Most US Americans still have much to learn about the blessings of waiting. Even Christians who may love to recite comforting passages from the Scriptures often struggle when life requires the words to be put into practice.
“My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning.” -Psalm 130:6
“Those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength…” -Isaiah 40:31
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” -Ecclesiastes 3:1
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.” –Matthew 6:25
Other cultures wait better than we do, even celebrating it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Just as nature reveals her wonders in time, so can time present us with the chance to be reshaped, to find the quiet center of our souls.
As the tension mounts around who will occupy the White House for the next four years, I seek to model a faithful and hopeful presence in this moment of waiting. And I choose not to allow the anxiety that sometimes accompanies idleness turn into destructive activity. I will seek to live by the words of the hymn:
Come and find the quiet center in the crowded life we lead,
find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed:
Clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes that we can see
all the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be.
 Tom Petty, “The Waiting,” released April 20, 1981 on Hard Promises, Backstreet Music, 1981.
 Steven D’Souza and Diana Renner, “Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action,” (New York: LID Publishing, 2018,) 150.
 All Scripture references are NRSV.
 D’Souza and Renner, 152.
 Shirley Erena Murray, “Come and Find the Quiet Center,” in The Faith We Sing, Hoyt Hickman, General Editor, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000,) 2128.