Patience, The All-Important Virtue

Ever since the beginning, we have lived with the realization of an invisible clock counting down our time left in this realm. Because we know we are to expire from this existence when the clock hits zero, we become obsessed with time. Some of us, as the philosopher Albert Camus suggests, try to cram in as many experiences as possible into our timeslot, hoping these experiences will provide us some comfort with the seeming absurdity of life. Other folks seek solace in not quantities of experiences, but in their quality. They resolve to live according to certain guidelines or rules, hoping to reach peace and happiness from whatever entity that placed them within time. Whichever way we each decide, absurdity or purpose, we all, on occasion, have had a quarrel with the timing of events in our lives.

As children, we are taught to be “patient”– by that they mean to exercise control over the external self– in anticipation of an expected outcome; be it a toy, or a birthday party. If we are honest, we’ll admit that this impatience is almost inseparable from powerful longing of what we want. We are never willing to wait. “If you want something so badly, why wait?” is often the narrative we play in our mind to rationalize our submission to this strong urge. And so, we do our utmost to control everything we can within this realm. Not only to satisfy this urge, but also to delay any perceived painful stimuli for as long as possible. We behave as children, throwing tantrums at the slightest delay of this immediate gratification. Therein lies one of our biggest problems with God. We often strongly disagree with the ‘timing’ in which he allows or delays positive and negative stimuli.

As a good parent, God knows that it is often not in our best interest to give us what we think we want, at the time we want it because, as we will often testify, the very thing we would do ‘anything’ for, in hindsight, we are grateful it was withheld. When it comes to the perceived ‘ideal’ career, car, house, or mate, we rarely exercise patience in waiting for the right time to be provided with what we need. Instead, we behave as teenagers cursing and blaming God for our discomfort during this period of seeming neglect, or lack. The truth of the matter is, just as a foolish teenager will come to understand the reasons and wisdom behind the decisions of their parents in due time, so will it be when it comes to understanding the wisdom of our Father. The difference is, through patience, this ‘waiting’ period can be one of peace, rather than a time of discomfort and even pain when we rebel and go it on our own. In the end, the choice is ours.

The Bible says that there is a ‘season’ or time for everything. This is often misconstrued as us having control over what occurs in what season, and I suppose to some extent we do. The ultimate truth is that our control only extends to ‘how’ we spend that time or learn the lesson. All of the rest is in His hands. He decides the ‘when’ and the ‘where’. If we are wise we will master patience, not just by attempting to control our behavior, but in coming to an understanding of the truth: That our Father loves us. If He withholds or delays anything from us that we perceive we cannot live without, it must be because He sees something we do not. For how many times have we said as adults, “NOW I see what my parents meant!” Consider this for a moment, we find it wise to teach our young ones the virtue of patience, but with the roles reversed vis-à-vis God, we refuse to see the truth– that we are as children, and God the caring parent.

The dictionary defines patience as “the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.” I believe real patience, not just the appearance of it, can only be attained through understanding. Consequently, understanding comes from the attempt to perceive outside of ourselves, outside of what we want; in other words, in Love.

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