Patience isn't one of my strengths. I wasn't born a patient person and I, generally speaking, am not a huge fan of waiting for something. Like most people in our culture, I've grown accustomed to getting things now and the instant gratification that is so easily attained. Our world has become a place where we can easily get almost anything we want relatively quickly. Blueberries aren't in season yet, but I could go to the grocery store and get some. My dress has a hole in it? I can go to the store and buy a new one. What we want is literally at our fingertips and only one click away. Not to mention our minds are continuously on the go. We are uncomfortable letting our minds be still; we've told ourselves that we must fill it with something. If you walk into a waiting room, you won't hear friendly conversations beginning between strangers. Instead, you'll see heads down, faces hidden, and thumbs scrolling on a device. We rush the kids out of bed in the morning, we rush to get to work, we rush back home at night so that we can get to the next thing. Yet, in this fast-paced world, I find myself noticing what it has done to me, to relationships between people, and community, and I yearn for something different. My heart begs to slow down, to be still, and to grow in my ability to just be.
So as I reflect on this revelation, I recognize what I need is to pray for patience. To recognize God's timing and the beauty in waiting.
"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning."
Psalm 130: 5-6
Our world is not designed to be fast-paced. Our lives are not meant to be rushed through. Instead, we are created to be still, to listen, to wait.
I was blessed to be able to bring three beautiful children into the world. Each of these perfect gifts took 9 months to form; there was not a possibility to have a baby the instant I wanted one. Their beautiful beings needed to be shaped, formed, fed, nourished as they grew inside me day by day.
A small apple tree will soon be planted on our homestead. Though we won't be able to harvest her fruit for years, we can wait with hope for the first apple she produces.
The spring is full of anticipation and the summer is beautiful, but they don't last all year. We must slow down and wait, no matter how much we don't want to, through the dormant winter months for the first green of spring to begin to show itself once more.
Our garden has been planted and is full of potential, but no matter how much I weed it or water it, the fruit will not be ready for another month or so. I cannot make it go faster.
And such is life. We hang here in this beautiful balance of time, this gift that produces an appreciation unlike any other.
The overwhelming emotion as you take in your newborn baby for the first time after all of those days of dreaming for that moment. The sweet juice of the apple that has grown after years without one. The excitement at the first tomato, harvested after months after that seed was planted in your home while the snow still flew. The beauty in the sound of the first songbird as it returns back home rejoicing after the long winter months.
We have been created to wait. Rushing away our lives as slaves to a clock is not how we are created to be. We have been created with nature to be like nature; we must slow down and be patient to reap the reward.
How can I be more patient?
Notice things around you. Heading outside? Even for a minute? Notice the smell of the air. Notice the birds singing. Notice the sky. Notice the beautiful and wonderful parts of existing right then and there at that moment. Make a point to allow your mind to stay focused only on what you observe.
Recognize how waiting has helped you in your life. Nobody really likes waiting (I don't think), but most of us can think back to a time when waiting has been the best thing for us. Remind yourself of how happy you were after that wait, how much it was worth it. Can't think of anything? Think of the first warm day after the cold winter. Think of how much you enjoyed it because you had to wait for it, because it wasn't something that was happening everyday. Remind yourself that the feelings you felt were because you had been waiting for that moment.
Ask yourself why you're rushing. Think about what is prompting you to be in such a hurry. Taking time to deliberately think about why you are feeling in such a rush and if it truly does need to be done quickly can help you to slow down when you don't need to be moving at such a fast pace. Think about this- You decide to take the kids outside. You find yourself continuously reminding the children to "hurry up" and "let's go". You've repeated "get your shoes on!" at least 3 times already and now your patience is running low. But why are you in such a hurry? Does getting outside a few minutes later really matter? Instead of focusing on getting outside, your destination, focus on what's happening now. Notice your children giggle as they put the shoes on their hands instead of their feet. Notice their sweet faces, their beautiful voices, and the way they move. Remind yourself that this will not be forever- someday this moment will not be. Instead of rushing the time along, make it a special moment between you and them.
Stop feeding the instant-gratification-monster. Something I teach my students about is how our brain works. In simple terms, the way we think is incredibly influential. Let's imagine I'm 5 years old and in math class. For the first time ever, I don't understand how to do something in math. What happens next is critical and it shapes how our brain works. If I think, "Wow, I must not be very good at math anymore" instead of "I have to learn a new strategy", our brain will remember our response. The next time I'm presented with a challenge in math, my brain will return to the thought I had previously, thus making it more of a well-traveled highway. Soon, the thoughts will become automatic and you will hear me, even as an adult say, "I'm not good at math." Now, our brains can be changed, but once a pathway is formed, it is very difficult to reverse it and form a new one.
The same is true with other things in life. Let's say I'm having a conversation with my family around the dinner table. I have a thought: "I wonder if anyone has liked my post on Facebook?" I now have a choice: I can either feed the monster who wants the instant-gratification of knowing someone "liked" something I said on Facebook or I can think another thought like, "I can find out what people thought of my post later". If I pick the first thought and choose to feed the monster, I may grab my phone and check the status of my post. The consequence of this is that now I'm disengaged with my family and now my brain has remembered this choice. Soon, our tables are filled with people on their phones- more interested in the people sharing things inside their tiny box than with the ones sitting around them right now. See the problem?
We have to train our brains to really focus on not needing to be instantly gratified. It will take work- your brain needs to be taught to think differently. But it is so worth it to be freed from that instant gratification you think you need.
Pray. Lord, I need you to help me to be patient. Remind me that patience brings good and that waiting, though it can be hard, helps to make the thing I'm waiting for all that much greater. Teach me to notice when I'm being impatient, and prompt me to instead be still. Amen.
Being patient isn't easy, especially when we're waiting for something we really want or when we don't understand why something isn't happening for us after we've been waiting for some time. We have to remember that our God is good and that this is not our forever home. Someday, we'll understand- even though it is painful and difficult to wait and be patient right now. Instead of rushing and questioning, today I'm going to focus on being patient, noticing my world around me, and praying for help! What about you?
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