Have you ever said a prayer, in a whispered rush, because you didn’t know what else to do; you had reached the end of your string and thought you would lose your mind or at least your cool?
“Lord! Please give me patience!”
What were you thinking?
I used to pray that prayer too, but then I realized something. Every single time I prayed for patience, things got oppressively worse. Why was that? I finally stopped praying for patience because I realized life, by its very chaotic nature, requires a camel’s hump worth of patience.
Since we looked at diligence last week, it seemed fitting to peer at patience as the two of them go hand in hand. Practice is an extension of diligence. If we want to learn a musical instrument or a language, we must diligently practice. In the same way, patience is required when we are trying to be diligent. We must be patient with ourselves. To think I will be able to play Beethoven after only a few hours of practice would be an error. Indeed, it might take a month, a year or a lifetime, to really master something, and that takes patience.
The Bible tells us that patience is a fruit of the Spirit. In order to fully grasp this idea we must look at what patience is not.
Patience is not getting my own way.
We might like to think that if everyone would just fall into line, my line, that all would be well and I would never have an impatient moment. How likely is that?
As moms we know how hard it is to get the miniature people in our lives to fall into line, let alone the full sized ones. We are born with a desire to be individuals, and God is okay with that. He made us all uniquely different. God also created us with a desire to know Him. It is only in following Him, and getting into His line, that we will truly understand what patience is, and become partakers of it.
Patience is not being perfect.
How many of you have had thoughts like this, “If I was just more…..”? You can fill in the blank with words like pretty, skinny, smart, rich, sexy, outgoing, bold, and so on. Wouldn’t it be easy to be patient with ourselves and others if we were all perfect? Honestly, I think that would get a tad bit boring. Perhaps that is why God made us so differently; different colors, different languages, different approaches to life, different likes and dislikes. Perfect? No. Different? Yes.
Patience is not practiced.
This might seem counterintuitive, but think it through for a minute. You can practice the piano. A child can practice riding a bike or tying his shoes. A teenager can practice driving a car. The only way to really practice patience is by placing yourself in a situation that would require it and who it their right mind would want to do that?
“Hey, I think I’ll go to my doctor’s appointment an extra two hours early, just so I can practice waiting.”
“I think I’ll get on the highway at rush hour, so I can practice not getting angry.”
“I need an extra dose of patience, so I’m going to have the dentist put crowns on all my teeth!”
I mean really. Who thinks that way?
What do we do about patience? We all know we need more of it, especially in our chaotic world. Politics, racial issues, religion, family life; everywhere we turn we need patience. How do we obtain more of it?
Since patience is a fruit of the Spirt it makes sense that in order to have it, we need to be in close contact with the One producing the fruit. As I have said other times in this Godly traits series, being in close contact with the Almighty is the only way to truly obtain all of these traits. These are Godly traits, or characteristics that He has. In order for us to have them, we need to be walking in fellowship with Him. Prayer, Bible study, fellowship with other believers, are all part of the formula for becoming a more Godly person.
In addition to that, here are a few real world things you can do, to help raise your patience level. I have found these most helpful when faced with those situations that make you want to scream, stomp and pull your hair out, or at least use a few very naughty words.
Take a deep breath.
Swimmers know that it is important to breathe. In addition to knowing the precise strokes, having strength, and practicing, knowing when and how to breathe is also important. When you are swimming through life and the waters get turbulent, remember how to breathe. Sometimes when I start to feel anxious I will take a deep breath in and then slowly blow it out. A simple practice could be the next time you are stuck in traffic, take a deep breath in and think about Jesus, a verse or a prayer. When you exhale, imagine you are blowing away the bad feelings, including those naughty words you were thinking in your head. Ha, ha.
Having appointments, where you have to sit and wait are pretty common, especially as we age and have to spend more time at doctor’s offices. It is so much easier these days with our smart phones to play a game, get on Facebook or even listen to music, while we are waiting. It makes time go so much faster. The plus to this is, you can even listen to or read the Bible. There is really no reason to be impatient while you are waiting in our tech savvy society. However, do not use your phone to distract you while in a traffic jam! The results could be disastrous.
Think about others.
This attitude has often helped me in the retail business. When a customer gets cranky, I always try to remember they might be going through something difficult. They might be having their patience tried in ways that we can’t even begin to imagine.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Walk a mile in his moccasins.” I didn’t know until I looked it up that this actually originated with a poem written by Mary T. Lathrap (1838-1895), who was an American poet, Methodist Episcopal preacher, prohibitionist and suffragist. You can see more on her and the poem in full on the blog, James Wilson - Writing & Things. Here are the first three stanzas from the poem.
If you read my faith post regularly, you will see a pattern. I always want to direct you back to our Creator. We know what it is like to be impatient, but there are times when life becomes so overwhelming we no longer feel the ability to wait for the Rescuer to come. These are the times I must choose to trust.
The Bible, God’s inspired word says,
This is a promise and when life gets to much to bear we must claim it. Paul said he was confident about this. He knew that God was working to perfect us in Christ Jesus. All the waiting, the hair pulling and the struggles are for one purpose, to make us like Jesus. If we do not believe that, then it all seems for naught.
If God can do all things and has done all things, won’t He most certainly give us the patience we need when life becomes a waiting game?