— Allan PoleBe patient. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said this to others, and others to me. “I would have been a doctor, but I didn’t have the patience.” Ironically, not all doctors who have many patients, have a lot of patience. Several elderly church members were quizzed on the secret of their longevity. “And why do you think God has permitted you to reach the age of 92?” one sweet lady was asked. Without hesitation she responded, “To test the patience of my relatives.” The Apostle Paul lists traits of a mature follower of Jesus in Galatians 5:22-26. Patience is not a gift of the Spirit, imparted instantly, but rather a fruit of the Spirit, developed gradually. While some personalities tend to be quieter and more passive, these traits are not the same as patience. I have yet to meet a patient baby, and I’m convinced that no one is born with patience. It is learned and developed as we mature—if we value and embrace it. We all have things to do and places to go, but we also have people to see. I have attended enough funerals to conclude that life is not just about doing but also about being. We can accomplish many tasks with excellence; however, if we fail in relationships, we fail in life. A Dutch proverb claims, “A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.” We can have a stellar IQ, but we need to give our heads a shake if we don’t take time to connect with the people around us. We have been schooled by our technical advancements to demand things at once. The push button has become our symbol—the “open sesame” to automatic service. Someone really guessed the right approach to our minds when he put the word “instant” on all the labels: instant coffee, tea, biscuits, cereal, etc. A little boy shopping with his mother in the supermarket picked up a box and brought it to her. “Oh, no honey,” she said. “Put it back. You have to cook that.” When do you find yourself being most impatient? While driving, standing in line, or waiting for others? Our relationships will flourish if we decide to be patient. To be patient is to bear with others’ faults and idiosyncrasies. Former United States President Jimmy Carter admitted to having unreasonable standards about punctuality. “If Rosalyn were even a few minutes late there would be a furious exchange and we would arrive at church, or a friend’s house, still angry with each other. For 38 years it has been the most persistent cause of dissension between us.” One morning, the President realized it was his wife’s birthday and he didn’t have a gift, but he had a brilliant idea. He wrote this note: “Happy Birthday. As proof of my love, I will never again make an unpleasant comment about tardiness.” The note was delivered with a kiss. This happened in 1982, and he is still keeping his promise. Both agree that it was the best birthday present he ever gave her. Can those closest to you say that you are patient? If not, what are you doing about it? Are you justifying it, or are you asking the Holy Spirit to demonstrate patience through you? Since patience is a fruit of the Spirit it flows out of communing with Him, meditating upon His Word, talking to Him, listening to Him, and obeying Him. I have certainly not arrived, but here are a few habits that nurture patience in my life:
- I like to start my day slowly, leaving enough time to get my head and heart in the game before I have my first appointment.
- I love to memorize Scripture, so I have a verse or passage on my smartphone that I can pull out and review while I wait.
- I try to redeem the time while driving by listening to worship music, fun music, or a podcast or radio show that will inspire and/or inform me. This puts me in a better frame of mind, so I don’t snap when someone cuts-me-off in traffic.
- I must build margins into my day, leaving time and space for divine interruptions when someone needs or wants to talk.