'Wait time' and wisdom

Originally printed as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel

It's not often that someone praises the advantages of a slower pace. Yet that's what at least one teacher is doing. Sharon Ellsworth teaches English at Grantsville Middle School in the Southwestern United States, and she is a strong advocate of "wait time." In a column in this newspaper, she described this as taking a brief pause following a student's initial response to a question. Researchers have concluded that a student does his or her best thinking during those few quiet moments.

Ms. Ellsworth cites an example of this. She'd asked a student named Denis why the "Dark Ages" were so named. His first response was "I don't know." Instead of turning to another student for an answer, the teacher quietly waited. Then Denis said, "There was no learning, so they were called the 'Dark Ages.' Learning is like light." Those sitting next to Denis were amazed. They'd never heard him say anything so perceptive. Even Denis was surprised!

Considering the rapid-fire pace our lives often take, there's an important reminder here. Every day, people who face grueling schedules at school, who have pressing deadlines on the job, who are deeply involved in community issues, face questions and decisions from the commonplace to the complex. But we don't need to be swept along by the torrent of activity and merely react to the demands of the moment. We can allow sufficient time for thoughts to unfold naturally and for the truly wise course of action to become apparent.

Such moments are golden opportunities to turn to the same source of wisdom that people throughout the Bible turned to: God. "Wait time," in other words, can have a holy purpose. It can be a time of prayer, listening for and heeding what divine wisdom is directing us to do.

One of the proverbs in the Bible suggests that the starting point is a sincere desire. "If thou seekest her [wisdom] as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures" - desire it that much - "then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God" (Prov. 2:4, 5).

As we revere wisdom and pursue it, we can expect to find it, because the guidance, the foresight, the answer we need, is at hand. The all-intelligent divine Mind is with us everywhere. God, Mind, who made the universe, maintains His entirely spiritual creation in perfect harmony and continuity. And as God's sons and daughters, which is who we truly are, we have the inherent ability to recognize this always-wise guidance every moment. Wisdom is never out of reach.

Someone who was faced with questions and decisions that not only affected her own life but that would touch the lives of spiritual seekers for generations to come was this newspaper's founder, Mary Baker Eddy. It's unlikely that she ever used the term "wait time," although she surely understood the immeasurable value of time spent in prayer. Her unflagging trust in God revealed the wisdom she needed from one hour to the next. She explained the divine process this way: "Spirit, God, gathers unformed thoughts into their proper channels, and unfolds these thoughts, even as He opens the petals of a holy purpose in order that the purpose may appear" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 506).

At one time Mrs. Eddy agreed to an interview in her home by fourteen members of the press, whose attitudes were characterized as everything from curious to hostile. Before entering the room where the press had gathered, Mrs. Eddy paused. Then she entered and responded insightfully to every question asked. Later, when asked by someone on her staff why she had hesitated before entering, Mrs. Eddy replied that she had waited to know that Christ went in before her.

As our attention turns to God for confidence or guidance, we break free from narrow limits, lack of control, and the uncertainty inherent in a strictly human and materialistic view of things. We're prepared to discern the thoughts that God is unfolding, and to take the steps that wisdom is mapping out.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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