Waiting for a long train to pass, being caught at several red lights in sequence, reaching a checkout counter just as the clerk puts up a “closed” sign–these are a few everyday occurrences that try your patience!
We all run into them. They represent interruptions that impact something else in our lives. If you’re like me, you sometimes lack patience in the face of these things. I have learned that venting anger may release some inner pressure, but I never feel good about myself when I’ve done that. Can you relate?
Knowing I need patience, and having it, are two different things. I can’t just say, “Okay, I’ll be patient,” if inside I’m steaming. Patience has to flow from something deeper.
My faith teaches me that patience is a response in my life that has to grow from spiritual roots. In Galatians, the Apostle Paul names it as one of the nine attributes that contribute to a healthier life. These attributes stand in contrast to the easy, and often disastrous, ways people react to circumstances by putting down others and calling them “enemy.”
Since I can’t just “be patient,” perhaps I can learn a way of life and belief that will cultivate this fruit. I think back to when I visited the state of Maine some years ago. At one point I stood on the shore of an inlet where boats were resting on dry land. Shallow water was visible in the distance. I learned that the tides were extreme. This was low tide. At high tide all of those boats would be afloat.
For a lobsterman to earn his living, he has to work with the reality of the tides. He has to plan ahead–structure his life around the tidal flux. Times when the tide is out become opportunities to mend boats and equipment–to be prepared to take the next high tide out for a catch. His life has to be in sync with the reality of the tides.
Like most people in America today, I’m struggling to have patience in the face of extreme violence perpetrated either by terrorists or by people who are emotionally out of balance. It’s easy to react by saying “all” Muslims are evil terrorists, to want to slam the immigration door. It’s easy to say the answer is either tighter gun restrictions or none at all: either-or, black-or-white thinking. Healthy reality, however, never lies within the framework of extreme reactivity. So we need PATIENCE in the face of these things.
While we’re in-between events, which is most of the time, we need to cultivate that inner spiritual connection that will equip us to take in stride, reach out and love without fear…and at the same time be vigilent and responsibly tough when called for. Name calling, anger venting, violence perpetuating reactivity only feeds the motives of those who want to overrule everyone.
How much better to love, lift, educate, heal, inspire, beckon and welcome people–all people–aside from the faith they claim, or how they look, or where they are from. The God I serve loves everyone, unconditionally. We call that grace. I believe God calls us to walk in his grace, allowing him to implant graciousness within us–through his Spirit.