As a child, I remember waiting for Christmas. It was a magical and exciting time, a mixture of expectation both spiritual and material. Although I would not have understood it this way at the time, it was a combination of a rather mystical waiting for the day of Jesus’ birth and a more down-to-earth excitement over opening gifts on Christmas morning. It was hard to be patient. Now that I am a mother, I can sense that same excitement in my own daughter’s voice. I can see her impatience color her actions in the lead up to Christmas morning. Her excitement and impatience sometimes leads to thoughtless behavior, mistakes made, and tears shed. Her body can’t contain everything that she is feeling.
It is not that she means to make mistakes or get in trouble, but her emotions are on overload. This, of course, can happen to all of us and for a variety of reasons. Our impatience and excitement, whether good or bad, pushes all the other emotions to the background.
As a ten year old, my daughter is still developing an understanding of the importance of patience. As an adult, I am still struggling to understand the importance of patience, too. I think many of us are and yet, 1 Corinthians 13:4a tells us that “love is patient and kind.” How can I practice true love if I don’t know how to be patient?
In the first blog post we looked at the definitions of patience and kindness and discussed how they impact our ability to love one another. Now, let’s look at some practical ways to practice patience toward the people God has placed in our lives, as well as extending patience to ourselves in our own imperfections.
Practicing Patience with Our Imperfect Selves
Often, as pastors’ wives, we focus on taking care of other people before ourselves – and I believe there is a time and place for that. The thing is, if we don’t take care of ourselves, what will we be able to offer anyone else? How can I support my husband, love my child, or reach out to the people in the congregation if I am not as healthy and strong as I can possibly be? I don’t know about you, but I find the act of caring for my own needs to be very difficult. There is always something else to do that seems more important. When I push my body, mind, and spirit, without taking the time to care for any of them, a crash is inevitable. When that happens I get frustrated because I have to stop doing what I want to do and wait for myself to heal. What if I had been patient with myself to begin with? What if I had listened to what my body was telling me? What if I rested and took care of my own needs so that I could then pour out into other people from my own well of strength, health, and wholeness?
There are many ways we can practice patience with ourselves. This might include:
- Making private time for Bible reading, meditating on God’s word, and praying
- Making a few minutes of quiet time for a tea or coffee
- Reading a good book
- Walking in nature
- Having a bubble bath
- Doing your favorite workout routine
- Taking an afternoon nap
Spending Time with Other People
Last night I was trying to finish this blog post and I really wanted to get it done. I was hoping for no distractions so that I could complete my work and go to bed. About seven minutes after I started writing I heard my daughter say, “Mom, will you come and watch television with me?” In response I replied, “No, I am doing my work. You know I have to finish my writing, you know I’m late getting it done already. You have to let me finish it.” It was a fair response on my part, I needed to get it done. Her reply cut right to the heart of what I was writing, “But, I just wanted to spend some time with you. I wanted you to sit beside me.” In my rush to get my writing done I was hurting my daughter. I was depriving her of the one thing she was asking for – my time, my attention, me. That really cut me to the core. I set down my pen and paper and watched television with her instead.
Our time is valuable and how we choose to spend it is incredibly meaningful. It is too easy to be busy rather than spending the time to invest in other people. It can seem easier to just do what needs to be done and move onto the next thing rather than stopping and spending time with the people in our lives. We can show love through patience by setting aside our never-ending to-do list and choosing to spend time nurturing relationships with our family and friends.
Listening goes hand in hand with spending time with other people. It can be hard to be a good listener. Do we wait patiently and listen carefully while someone is speaking, allowing them to express their thoughts and feelings, or do we hurry them along, only half-listening, as we think about what we have to do next? Do we love the people God has placed in our lives enough to listen to them? Maybe they are telling us a story we have heard fifty times before, or maybe they are recounting a hurt or a joy they are experiencing. Whatever is being said, they are telling me because they believe it is important. Do I believe it is important enough, that they are important enough to listen?
Sometimes people’s behavior can be downright frustrating. We just don’t want to deal with it. Perhaps someone has a habit that makes us uncomfortable, or they have experienced a lot of recent stress, or maybe they have made some bad choices in the past that continue to haunt them. They are sad, lonely, angry, excited, or frustrated and these emotions are impacting their behavior.
If we show patience and take the time to understand the emotion that is causing the behavior, it becomes much easier for us to accept. We also need to remember to not take these behaviors personally, and that can be hard. Even though they appear to be directed at us, they usually aren’t. My daughter suffers from anxiety and, sometimes, the more fearful she feels, the more angry she gets. It can be really hard to be patient when this is happening but when I take the time to understand the emotion behind her actions, I can respond in a much more positive fashion, showing love rather than frustration and impatience.
We all make mistakes. Our response to our own mistakes and the mistakes of others is a reflection of our love. Do we respond gently, kindly, patiently? Are we able to quickly forgive and move on? We need to accept and see one another, and ourselves, as God sees us. Genesis 1:27 tells us that we are made in God’s image. Do we treat ourselves and others as if this is true or do we focus only on imperfections and our ability to repeatedly miss the mark?
Turning to Prayer
If you are like me, patience is hard. It is much easier to just get on with life and do the next thing because, after all, isn’t that what an impatient person does? Just getting the day done is not the answer. It is not the way of love. It is only through asking God to grant me patience that I can be more loving, more patient, more Christ-like in all of my relationships.
Waiting on the Lord
As we strive to practice patience toward ourselves and the many people that our lives touch, I want to remind you of another reason why we wait patiently. Psalm 130:5, 6 says, “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.” May we show each other love, through patience and kindness, as we wait for our Lord to come.
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