Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pray for Patience, I Double-dog Dare You . . .

I’ve not prayed for patience in eons. Maybe because I’ve bought into the notion, if I pray for patience, an abundance of trials will skyrocket from Heaven, thus relentlessly pounding into me the value of this virtue. Yet, “But let patience have [its] perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing,” (James 1:4 NKJV) keeps creeping into  my thoughts, most likely because I’m finding myself a tiny bit impatient these days. Okay . . . I'm credibly impatient.

Patience is a curious thing; it’s like trying to herd a hundred cats at once, into the same space. Patience is defined as, “Perseverance, persistence, endurance, tenacity . . . determination, resolve, resolution, resoluteness.” It certainly would take a whole lot of tenacity and determination to corral a hundred cats into one space.

An attribute of the fruit of the Spirit is patience and follows love, joy, and peace (Galatians 5:22). We might ask ourselves if we're feeling “impatient” . . .
  • Do we lack love?
  • Do we lack joy?
  • Do we lack peace?

When my impatience reaches boiling level, the Spirit reminds me, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near,” (Philippians 4:5). Conviction! Unfortunately, I do not always heed that warning. No sooner does the rebuke enter my hearing it exits as fast. And my inner world is swarming inside like angry bees.

I am befuddled that this gentle reminder, coming from a patient God, is not enough to release an ounce of calmness in me. My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). Not to excuse my behavior but . . . my impatience can get the better of me.

Here are a few possible impatient triggers:

  • Waiting in line when in a hurry
  • When people or things consume our time with trivial stuff
  • Being repeatedly interrupted when focused on a project
  • Messes others make and don’t pick up
  • Rude or uncooperative people 
  • Screaming and out-of-control kids
  • Waiting at a doctors office to long
  • Slow drivers (Are you with me?)

 When impatient our body, mind, and emotions react, usually with:

  • Irritation
  • Frustration
  • Anger
  • Resentfulness
  • Moodiness
  • Aggression

All these emotions, when not harnessed, cause in us toxic emotions and thoughts, which can affect our health. The more we become impatient, the easier it is for us to snap in to that mode—at least that is my experience. In my humble opinion, I find it is easier to lose my patience than to exhibit tenacity or perseverance in some situations.

For instance, we once had a Siberian husky named Samson. He was a smart dog but enjoyed running away. In his escapades, he became friends with two other dogs, which were killing the neighbor’s chickens—bad company corrupts good morals. Samson would bring his trophy home and bury the dead chicken’s head in the front yard, with the rest of the body exposed. A friend mentioned perhaps God gave me this dog to teach me patience. I didn’t appreciate the challenge. I grew exceedingly more impatient with Samson after trying all the “other remedies” for him to break this bad habit.

On one particular morning my patience surpassed its threshold. Upon seeing Samson wagging his tail next to his buried chicken head, I marched outside and snatched that chicken from the ground and beat the dog with it numerous times, yelling all the while. I'm sure if anyone was watching, they'd thought I'd lost my noodles.

Allowing our impatience to develop beyond being a tiny bit frustrated can cause us to verbalize unkind words. It also can cause us to act in ways we might not normally act as well it releases negative chemicals in our body. Instead of reverting to beating the dog with a dead chicken, our body language speaks for its self. What are others seeing or learning about us when we “lose” our patience?

So what is the answer to our impatience?

Saint Augustine said, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.”
Learning to take a deep breath while waiting or in the midst of an upheaval is wisdom. We are demanding and selfish people if we’re honest. We live in a “get it now” world. But wisdom says wait, relax, take time out, and if needed keep thy mouth shut.

Barbara Johnson an American best-selling writer stated, “Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.” And I might add stripping someone else’s gears. As we practice keeping our “motor idle” and not getting our engines revving, we can feel more composed in a situation. Of course, this reuires daily practice and a willingness to change.

I also found this quote, “The secret of patience is doing something else in the meanwhile,” (author unknown). This is true. If we can quickly divert our attention to something else, or learn to walk away while we settle what is causing our impatience, everyone will be better for it. Knowing we cannot change the moment or the person; we can only change our perception and pray for God to help us cope with what we cannot control.

When we do not allow patience to become an attribute of our character, it’s like we gather little stones along the way and before we know it, those little stones turn into a gigantic boulder, which will either crush us or worse crush someone else.

“Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ,” (2 Thessalonians 3:5). 

Go ahead pray for patience, but don’t forget love, joy, and peace as I believe these first three characteristics will " . . . let patience have [its] perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."
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