Most of us recognize patience is a virtue, but many of us forget just how patience is learned - through tribulation! It takes a little bit of the "troubling of the waters" of our lives to teach us the lessons of patience. So, when you pray for patience, you are actually praying to have the waters stirred! Chew on that one a few minutes - it might just change the course of your prayers! We have those moments when the thing we are expressing is the furthest from what we might label as the virtue of patience. Learning how to respond in patience is what some call conforming your conduct to some moral or ethical principle. I call it the divine work of the Holy Spirit in us in an area where he did not previously exist or have access!
Patience is better than strength. Controlling your temper is better than capturing a city. (Proverbs 16:32 NCV)
Most of us pray for strength and patience in the same breath, don't we? Yet, patience is better than strength. Strength might give us the stamina to accomplish the task, but patience gives us the emotional fortitude to actual endure till the end. Fortitude is the combination of the mental and emotional strength we will need to face difficulty with courage. I think patient people are very courageous - when faced with adversity, danger, and even temptation, their response is one of waiting on the Lord to lead them through the tough spot they are in. If you haven't stopped to consider this, it might do you well to know waiting is part of patience and waiting requires a whole lot of courage at times!
There are times when it is hard to be patient - especially when we don't understand the other person's perspective. If you have ever found yourself waiting in line behind someone who is trying to dig for their pennies at the bottom of their purse, or perhaps want the cashier to go through the tall stack of coupons they have, you probably have been faced with a little bit of this thing called "impatience". Yet, if you stop for just a moment, taking in the possibilities of the other person's perspective, you might change how you are responding in that moment. The one digging for coin in the depths of the purse may be on their last few cents, trying hard to get together just enough to make it through till payday. The one cashing in on the coupon deals may need to save those dollars because it is the way they help bless others with what they are able to buy "extra" when they coupon. Putting ourselves in the shoes of another often changes our perspective of the situation - and it changes our perspective of the wait!
A warrior sees the battle ahead - narrowing their sights on the nearest target and then taking it on with all the ability they have. A leader of warriors sees the battle from a different perspective - they consider the strategy of the battle. I think patience requires us moving from just doing battle, to learning the strategies of the battle. The warrior might know how to take the city - the leader knows when the timing is right, the conditions are in your favor, and the importance of waiting for both! It is true - I can make pretty quick decisions and take pretty prompt actions - but are they always the best? In case you don't know the answer - it is "no". Sometimes we avoid the "best" for the pursuit of the "quickest". Guess what? As long as we are always going for the quickest, we will never learn the lessons of patience.
Waiting is only one part of patience. The other part which seems to trip us up on occasion is this whole idea of getting interrupted when we are in pursuit of something. It is like when I am making a beeline for my car at the end of the day and encounter someone lost in the hospital. Our hospital sprawls out for a ways, so getting turned around and not being able to find your way is not uncommon. I am interrupted by their need to find their way. Notice - it is THEIR need. MY need is to get home, eat dinner, connect with mom, and just chill out. THEIR need is to get their CT scan done! Again, I have to change my perspective to recognize their need. Part of dealing with the frustration of interruptions is the "quickness" by which we can put ourselves in the other person's shoes. I have come to appreciate interruptions as God's way of revealing something to me I would not have otherwise seen, or keeping me from something I would not have wanted to experience. When we begin to see interruptions as "divine" rather than "unwanted" and "frustrating", we might just appreciate them as times of protection, opportunities for learning, and moments of connection.
Our best example of patience is Jesus. He had a whole lot of delays in his time on this earth - waiting for others to "catch up" to where he was. His disciples, closer to him than most others, didn't even really "get" what he was doing on this earth, right up to the very end. He endured a whole lot of interruptions - not once concerned for how it would affect him. He showed us how to look beyond our OWN need to see the need of ANOTHER. He imparted to us the importance of seeing past the evident into the probability of the hidden. He focused not on the immediate issue as much as the importance of keeping in mind the strategy for the bigger picture.
I don't know your exact circumstances today, but I do know you will be faced with opportunities to need both strength and patience in what it is you are dealing with. It may be the relationships you are in where you will need strength to see it through and patience to look beyond the faults of the other. If so, remember to keep in mind the idea of "perspective" - look beyond the obvious, there may be more hidden just beneath the surface. It may be you have personal emotional conflict which keeps you bound up in some personal battle of the will and emotions. Maybe you need to seek out another to help you bring clarity and to sort out the conflict - their perspective could just give you a new one yourself. Just sayin!