Saturday, August 6, 2011

Patience is a Virtue

When I was a kid, my dad had the worst temper, but he had an awesome sense of humor. While he told lots of jokes about other things, some of the funniest were the ones aimed at himself. Often he would lose his temper over having to wait on something and he would spout off a string of ugly words not meant for mine or my sisters' ears. Later, he would realize the error of his ways & would jokingly tell us girls that "Patience is a virtue" as if he was telling us by experience & example. We would all laugh about how impatient Daddy was and I think (at least internally) his goal was to try to do better next time & set a better example for us. But it was a long-standing joke in our family that Daddy's impatience often got him into trouble or caused him to respond to a situation a little too harshly.

As an adult, I have always tried to be extremely patient. With my kids, with the kids in my classroom, with other people. And while I succeed in some areas, there are others that are seriously lacking. Somewhere deep inside, I know it's something I struggle with. I really do try to be patient, but often I find myself in situations that could've been remedied by my willingness to wait or listen or work a little longer.

I thought I had hit "rock bottom" a few years ago. I was sitting in a church driveway waiting to turn into the highway traffic passing by. I watched as what seemed like a million cars drove by, without ever seeing a break in the line of cars. I remember checking my watch, tapping my foot, feeling rushed to get wherever I was going. I was frustrated that these people were not switching lanes to open up a spot for me or slowing down to create a break in the line of cars so that I could jump in. Couldn't they see I needed to pull out? Geez!

Finally, I spotted an opening in the traffic & pulled my car out into the gap. That's when I discovered that I'd just joined a funeral procession.


I poked along at a snail's pace with the other funeral goers until I could find a place to pull over on the shoulder & allow the rest of the group to pass by. I was so embarrassed at my irritation & impatience with this group of drivers. Later I laughed about it, but in the moment I realized how quickly I had allowed myself to become impatient & irritated at total strangers who were driving to the cemetary to pay their final respects to a loved one. I prayed for the family of the deceased as I sat on the roadside that day and I asked God to forgive me for my impatience.

Several years have passed since that day. I have grown a lot since then, having had to wait on God in so many circumstances since that time. I have learned so much about the character of God and how He often has us wait until the very last possible second before He rescues us. I've learned that we should press forward, doing what we know He wants us to do, even during the times that it seems the hardest to obey Him, and at the proper time, we will see the fruits of our labor (Gal. 6:9).

Today I discovered that I have clearly not learned enough about patience.

After Savannah's birthday party where we ate ice cream, we went to Barnes & Noble for her to spend some of her gift cards. Ice cream is on my list of things that make my stomach completely crazy. (Hello, fellow IBS sufferers!) So well, guessed the middle of Barnes & Noble, it hit. I needed to visit the bathroom. Right away. I told the girls I'd be right back & went racing for the potty. As I get close to the bathroom, I encountered a slow moving lady. If you don't have IBS, you may not understand the urgency that occurs in a situation like this, but I really needed to go potty. The lady was walking with a cane. I took into account that she might be stopping to look at a book or she might be looking for her husband who was several aisles away or who knows what else, so I circled around a display to get ahead of her & into the bathroom more quickly. When I got into the bathroom, I positioned myself in the stall at the far end of the bathroom (there are only 3 stalls). Someone was in the first stall & because of my weird public bathroom quirks, I like to always have at least 1 stall between me and any other person in the bathroom if possible. And wouldn't you know it? When I opened the door to exit the handicapped stall that I had used, there stood that slow moving lady with the cane, waiting for me to get out of the stall that she needed.

I felt about this big. I went to wash my hands, but felt like I should stick around to apologize to the woman. (Of course I didn't, but it crossed my mind.)

Like the other situation, I can laugh at my horrible impatience & the weird predicaments it gets me into now, but the reality is I need to work on this! Patience is a virtue, according to my dad. And apparently it's one I need some more practice using! I won't ask God to give me patience, but I pray that He allows me to open my eyes more clearly & see situations for what they really are and show me ways to exercise greater wisdom in the future.

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