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If you’ve been reading the meme’s that I’ve posted throughout the week, you’ve seen that quite a few of them have to do with patience. When I first saw these Lenten quotes about patience I was a bit . . . what? What does patience have to do with Lent?
The more I think about it, the more that I realize that patience is a huge part of Lent.
Lent is all about awaiting the coming dawn. Waiting, to put it simply, is not my strong suit. I want it now. No really. NOW would be better than later.
But that isn’t always the case. Waiting and patience give us time for preparation. Preparation can make the difference between success and a failure. I know this, but I’m still not very good at waiting.
Lent is also a time of turning into the light. It is a time for us to remove what stands between us and God’s light. It is a time of helping us remove what keeps other people from seeing God’s light in us.
Quite often that requires patience. Patience to take care of what ever it is in us that keeps us from being Christ’s hands on earth. Patience to listen to what the other person has to say, because until we know what is in their hears and their minds, we very often have no clue what they need.
Patience. It is a key part of empathy.
Patience. It is most truly something that I need today.
So often when we are passionate, we rush headlong into something. We see patience as a flaw when it is not.
Stop me if I’ve told this one before (Ha! As if you could stop me!): My husband and I were leaving the doctor’s office when the kind receptionist apologized for our wait. “That okay,” said hubby, “I brought a book.” “That’s okay,” I replied, “I have a vivid imagination.”
What I meant, of course, is that I can occupy myself practically endlessly with just the machinations of my own kooky brain. Still, that doesn’t always make waiting easy. Sure, I waited three years for kitchen counters (and I cook every blessed day), but just waiting for Yahoo to get it together this morning and SHOW ME MY BLOODY MAIL made me go all kinds of cuckoo. Waiting can be insufferable sometimes.
Advent, the liturgical season leading up to Christmas, is a time of waiting, too. We are called to “stay awake,” and “keep watch,” but for what? For a savior that was born a long time ago? No. For a savior that is returning — and for the march of Providence (sometimes it feels like a tiptoe) in our lives, leading us to our spiritual destinies.
Where are we going? How do we get there? Persons of faith know their desired destination — heaven — but getting there is another kettle of fish altogether. Yes, we have Jesus’ own words to help us: Feed the poor, shelter the homeless, be kind and merciful, forgive one another. This is all bricks-and-mortar stuff. But the specific way in which we reach enlightenment…that’s different for each of us.
I spend a good deal of time wondering if I’m on the right path. Am I using my gifts to my fullest ability? Am I giving enough? What is God calling me to do now? These are not easy questions to answer. I often strain to hear the voice of God. But I also have faith that I did not get where I am now on my own. I am here for a reason — God must want me here. I just need to figure out why.
If you, too, are in a “holding pattern” in your life, wondering which way to go, be of good cheer. Advent is your season. Be patient and listen, but also know that you did not arrive at your current destination by chance. God is leading, guiding. All you have to do is stay awake. And maybe bring a book.
The zoo was crowded. The weather was unseasonably pleasant — a perfect day for a family outing. As my husband and I watched the antics of the howler monkeys, I couldn’t help overhearing a teenager giggling and repeating to anyone who would listen how stupid and gross the monkeys were; you know, what with their grooming of one another’s fur and all. I rolled my eyes, a gesture my brother once dubbed (in his childhood) “butterflies to the moon.” Man, my butterflies were way over the moon. The whole crowd seemed loud and coarse; weariness swept over me like a misanthropic miasma.
And then I had a revelation. Suppose you were at a party, a noisy and crowded, raucous get-together, and someone told you that God himself were present at the gathering, disguised as one of the guests. No outward sign would betray his identity. How would you behave, knowing this fact? How would you treat the other guests? The thought stopped me dead in my tracks. Would I roll my eyes at God? Of course not! I would treat every guest with the reverence, the devotion I feel for the Almighty. There would be no “butterflies to the moon.” If even one of those guests could potentially be God, it would be my honor to treat each one like gold.
And suddenly, everyone at the zoo took on a new light, a new identity. I was at that party, and God was among us. It was up to me to treat every person as I would treat God if I were to meet him face to face. What a difference this made to my attitude! Suddenly, the running, shouting children were adorable, the giggling teens heartwarming. Everybody was beautiful. The whole day changed.
Every one of us carries God within our souls. Perhaps it is hard to see, but whose fault is that? The eye of the beholder! God is no less present just because we ourselves fail to apprehend him. If only we could be acutely aware, all the time, of this fact! How differently might we treat one another!
Because God isn’t just one guest at the party. God is all of the guests. It’s about time I acted like it.
So far, 2012 has been fraught with First World problems. Let me tell you what I mean. The year began with the ignominy of being ignored by servers in two separate restaurants. Everything I did seemed to go wrong: glasses spilled, recipes spoiled, appointments missed…just getting out of bed resulted in catastrophic bruising. “When is this year going to get better?” my husband and I railed. Like I said — First World problems.
To put things into perspective, try viewing the petty trials and tribulations of your life next to the very real suffering that occurs every day in Third World countries. Things like starvation, epidemic illness, government death squads. Makes the washing machine breaking down seem pretty darned insignificant, doesn’t it? Yet we do like to complain about our First World problems. We let them get us down. We let them set the tone.
It’s all very human of us. Just look at the Psalms. “O God, my God look upon me: why have you forsaken me?” cries Psalm 21. “All my enemies whispered against me…they determined against me an unjust word,” bemoans Psalm 40. Of course, the Israelites had bigger problems than 21st century Americans do, by a long shot. Still, the sentiment is the same: No one likes it when things go wrong.
It would be simplistic to say, “pray your troubles away,” yet it makes a salient point. Prayer begets patience, and patience is the only thing that’s needed to wait out our problems. Because things do get better…and worse…and better again. It’s all a part of God’s Providential plan. If we could just see the bigger picture, maybe those little inconveniences of life wouldn’t get us down.
Or maybe they still would. And that’s okay. Without First World problems, what would provide the prodding we require to stay in contact with God? As for me, I am greatly thankful that my troubles are of the First World variety. I am certain God knows that, weak as I am, I could hardly cope with more.
Once in a while, I’m a little dense. Then there are those other days when I’m black hole dense. Apparently, last Monday was one of those days.
First my son forgot to make sure that he had a towel in his swim bag. After practice, he had to borrow the end of a friend’s towel and use the hand dryer in the locker room. I refused to take the blame and laid it right back in his lap.
Then, as soon as I started working, he announced that he couldn’t find his team suit for that night’s meet. Really? You’d have to look to find it. Nope. Still, no luck. I was less than kind when I handed it to him and then let him fold a large portion of the laundry that had masked its presence.
Let’s just say that by the time he was in la-la-land and didn’t even hear the call to his last event at the meet, I had had it. Big time. It wasn’t entirely his fault – they had canceled his lane. But if he had been paying attention, he would have been able to tell me that when I asked him why he wasn’t getting ready to swim. Instead, he ran around like the proverbial chicken.
The next day, storms cancelled practice. Hallelujah! I could get to work early, get done early, and he could attempt to find his brain. Because I so was not going to put up with another one of those days.
Plopping down in my chair, I pulled out my list of deadlines. July 15th – check. I’m working on that one. July 1st – under control. I had to get just a bit more information and then I could rough that one out. July 1st . . .
Didn’t I just look at that one?
I had completely – as in entirely – overlooked a deadline. I knew I had to write the article but hadn’t taken note of when it was due. I usually start these things at least three weeks in advance. Not a week and a half. How could I be so stupid?
Oh, I get it.
Just to make sure, I told a friend. He groaned. “You know,” he said. “God’s got quite a sense of humor. Sorry.”
Yep. That’s what I thought.
But seriously, a more subtle lesson would have worked.
I’m almost sure of it.