Monday, January 12, 2009
My mother always told me never to pray for patience, because God would test it. She was SO right. Every time I have ever prayed for patience, God comes along with the most patience testing thing He can come up with seeming to say "You want patience? You'll have to work for it, baby." As they say in body-building: No Pain, No Gain. Right? But, I am a wimp. I don't like pain. So I stopped praying for patience, preferring instead to let the world just hit me in the face and do what I could to stay upright.
As a younger woman, I never put much thought into what patience actually is. I could define it, like a vocabulary word, but defining it and understanding the concept are two different things. I was too busy being impatient to want to understand the concept. It took too long to think about. My nickname as a child was "Impatiens". Not because I was a pretty as a flower, but because it was a play on words on my most strong personality trait.
As an adult and a mother, I knew I had to develop some patience and have struggled with it ever since. Recently, from the vantage point of almost 40 years of life on earth, I have been considering where my life needs to change direction and what I need to do to become a better person. Patience has become the focus of those considerations, more than once.
The dictionary defines "patience" as: 1) the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like. 2.) an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay: to have patience with a slow learner. 3.) quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence: to work with patience. (from dictionary.com)
If I had to define the word "patience" myself, it would be the ability to have grace under pressure; to be the harbor of peace and calm in a stormy world. I am not a patient person, by nature. The storms of life rock me too hard to be a "harbor of peace". And as far as waiting for anything without restlessness or annoyance: Hah! forget it. Bus drivers incur my wrath quite frequently.
In my long years of working for the church, I have heard many homilies on peace and patience. The best one I ever heard was from a priest who was, himself, impatient. He said that rather than praying for God to give you patience, you should ask God to give you some of His patience. God, being eternal and the source of all peace, has plenty to go around. And Father was right. It does help to pray for God's patience. Our own patience is finite, by our very nature. God, being infinite, has all the patience in the world.
Believe it or not, I am much better at being patient than I used to be. Those who have known me for a long time will attest to that. Those who have known me only a short time will wipe their brows and say, "Really?! I sure am glad I didn't know you way back in the day."
I am still not the most patient woman in the world. My children and husband will attest to that. But, I am working on it. Building patience, is a lot like body-building. It must be tested in order to grow. If all you did was lift weights with 5 pound weights for the rest of your life, you would never get to that 300 pound bench press.
Having situations arise in my life that require more patience than I have is a test of my strength. Sometimes I surprise myself and handle things well, and sometimes I fail miserably. But, with God as my spotter, I know that I will never be completely crushed. I just have to let Him know when I need help.
Image: Atlas holding up the heavens - from a vase in the Vatican Museum.