Once, years ago, when I was feeling overwhelmed as a mother with three young children, I phoned an older and wiser friend for comfort. After I poured out my woes, she told me, “Dear, I just think you need to be more patient.” I nearly hit the roof!
Patient? I didn’t even like the word! Doesn’t being patient mean sitting around until things just somehow get better? I thought being patient meant being a wimp. To be told I should be more patient was not helpful. I swore I would never speak to my friend again.
I tried to shove the idea of patience aside completely.
The problem was I had always respected her counsel; that’s why I had phoned her. Maybe she knew what she was talking about. No, how could she possibly understand? I tried to shove the idea of patience aside completely.
It bothered me, though, when I realized that I didn’t really know what the word “patience” meant. Finally I looked it up. One definition is “to be calm under whatever circumstances.” Well, that wasn’t so bad. At least it didn’t say I had to wait.
The next day I took my three children to the library in our town in Hawaii. As we were leaving I noticed a Volkswagen Beetle (the original version!) parked next to our car. There were some young Hawaiian guys hanging around it, talking, and laughing. By the time I got my kids in our car, the guys had piled into theirs and had taken off.
At the end of the parking lot, both of our cars had to wait for the green light. When the light changed and the Bug drove through the intersection, I saw a tennis racket fall off its roof right into the middle of the road. Traffic was slow enough for me to jump out of my car and pick up the racket. I wanted to get it back to the guys as quickly as I could.
So the chase was on!
So the chase was on! But the Bug weaved in and out of several streets before I finally lost it. It was frustrating. It was also very hot and sticky. The air conditioning in my car was not working well enough to suit the kids, and they were getting cranky and impatient. Ah! That word. Impatient.
I pulled over into a parking lot to think. By now the Bug would be going over the mountain, heading towards Honolulu. I would never find it. Maybe I could put an ad in the paper, or…or…or. Too many ideas raced through my head. I had no idea what to do.
Then the thought came to me to be very calm.
Be calm, in spite of the fact that the kids were whining, it was hot and muggy and there was no quick answer?
I took my hands off the steering wheel and began to pray.
But I did it anyway. I took my hands off the steering wheel and began to pray.
Praying, to me, means listening to God. And it is a lot easier to hear Him when I’m quiet. Otherwise it would be like trying to hear someone on the phone when the TV is blaring in the background. The noise has nothing to do with the conversation, so we need to turn it way down, if not off.
In that calmness I felt God’s loving, intelligent presence, and I felt sure He would tell me what to do. Even though the kids were fussing I had tuned the noise out. I listened to God some more. In a minute or two the idea came to go back to the library. That made no sense to me, and I momentarily protested. But God had spoken and it felt so right to go.
As we arrived, I saw that the same parking lot served both the library and the tennis courts. Of course! How could I have forgotten? I backed my car into a space and looked for an instructor who might know who owned the racket.
He thanked me with a big Hawaiian “aloha!”
Suddenly a car pulled up beside me. It was the Bug! He was looking for the lost racket. I handed it right to him. He thanked me with a big Hawaiian “aloha!” Then the Bug zipped away.
What a relief. I had really wanted to get the shiny new racket back to its owner. But what was more important to me was the lesson I had learned about patience. I didn’t begin to love the word overnight, but I had really gotten a glimpse of its importance.
I had often read something Paul says in the Bible, “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” That statement had always puzzled me. If patience means to sit back and wait, then how does one run with patience? But helping the guys in the Bug that day made it a little clearer.
First of all, no matter what the situation, it helps to be calm. This makes it easier to hear what the Divine is telling us. We may not always understand what we’re being told completely, but a prayerful calm helps us discern what feels right. Then, we follow. And before we know it, we find the solution, almost as if we had actually run straight to it.
In the years that followed of raising the kids through their teens, the word patience took on greater and greater significance. Very gradually I learned not to get upset but to be calm, avoiding many needless battles. And now that the kids are grown, I still find it invaluable to be calm, under whatever circumstances.
Calmness brings the answer.
I will never forget the feeling of calm I felt that day in the car. It had nothing to do with my surroundings. It wasn’t dependent on the children. And perhaps most importantly, it was not dependent on having the answer first. Being calm brings the answer.
My friend was so right. Patience is the answer.
Article by Sarah Nelson