THE REV. DR. CLAY SMITH: What do you do while you are waiting?


I had a surgical procedure done on my knee this week. Nothing big, the surgeon did a great job, and I am recovering nicely, thank you. But with the COVID-19 virus, the pre-surgery routine has changed. My wife could not go back with me for the pre-op routine.

For those of you unfamiliar with the pre-op routine, your name is called as you sit in the waiting room. You follow a nurse back to a small room. She will ask your full name and date of birth (this will happen many times). She tells you to take off your clothes (yes, all of them) and put on a gown. The gown, designed to make sure you do not leave the hospital, leaves you feeling exposed - because you are. Various people come in and out, all asking your full name and date of birth. You are repeatedly asked questions about your health: Ever had cancer? Ever fainted? Ever had a reaction to anesthesia? Ever had a splinter? Ever use a Band-Aid?

Then you wait. The nurse tells you it won't be long. There is no TV, my phone is bundled up with my clothes, and my wife is in the waiting room. I am waiting alone.

I began to pray. Sure, I prayed for myself, for the surgeon and for rapid healing. I prayed for my family, my sister who has cancer, for people in church I pastor. I prayed for the president, the governor and the mayor. I prayed for my city councilman. I prayed for the church I shepherd.

After an hour, the nurse came back in and explained the surgery before mine was taking longer than expected. It was hip replacement, and there were complications. I would have to wait a little longer. No problem. I understand these things happen,and I want the surgeon to be thorough with all his patients but especially me. I prayed some more. I prayed for my neighbors, I prayed for people I work with, I prayed for people I know who are far from God.

After waiting an hour and a half, I ran out of people to pray for. So, I started thinking about chores I need to accomplish: spraying for weeds, changing the air filters, cleaning out a desk drawer. After I made my mental list of chores, I started one of my mental games: name all 46 counties in South Carolina (Horry, Georgetown, Charleston, Dorchester ). I remembered 43, but I could not get the last three.

The nurse came back in and said it would be a little longer. By now, I realized medical people have a different understanding of the word "little." When they say, "This will sting a little," they mean "This will sting like having a swarm of murderous hornets attack you." When they say, "You will feel a little pressure," they mean "This will feel like the garbage truck unloading the dumpster rolling across your chest."

I napped a few minutes. I counted the holes in the ceiling tile. I thought about lunch. Finally, the man arrived to roll me back to surgery. After three hours, I was on my way.

I was only waiting for minor surgery. There are people waiting for their cancer to go into remission. There are people waiting for their spouse to keep his or her promise. There are people waiting for the phone call from their child telling them where they are.

Whole groups of people are waiting to be treated justly. They are waiting for racism or sexism to die. Children are waiting to be loved and adopted. Young adults are waiting to be hired.

People are waiting on God. They are waiting on God to right the wrongs of this world, to clean everything up. Sometimes, in our impatience, we tell God our timetable. I wonder, when God hears those prayers, if he laughs or cries.

God also waits on you. He waits for you to get serious about your relationship with him. He waits for honest prayer. He waits for you to actually follow him, instead of yelling at him to come over to where you are. God waits on you to accept his love, his grace and his peace.

God understands what it means to wait. He waits with you. He waits on you. Maybe the best thing you can do while you wait is ask him, "What do you want to talk about while we wait?"

The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.