Friday, June 25, 2010

Cultivating Patience

God planned that babies would arrive in nine months. We thought up instant milk formula. God told peach trees to produce peaches once a year. We thought up fast food and drive through. God ordered the earth to rotate around the sun once a year, and we invented the fast lane.

When any kind of trouble arrives, we want it over and done. Impatient, we want to trade those difficult days for our easygoing, regular life. The buzz words on the lips of on-the-go people are tweet, application, droid, and high speed. The words leisure, relax, languid, rest, and unwind have moved into the closet.

Some of us spend money we don’t have. Credit card debts mount because we want the vacation now. Rushing life, little girls wear clothing beyond their years. Speeding up their knowledge, boys are exposed to concepts kids were never meant to understand until they are older.

When confrontation arrives, instead of holding our tongue, some tell it like it is. We let them have a piece of our mind. No words barred. No holding back.

I commend those readers who have allowed God to instill and teach you patience. But for those of us, who haven’t quite opened the door and allowed patience to grow, we’ll consider that virtue this week. It remains noble to embrace this gift of the Spirit and good value that can be ours. We’ve already looked at joy and gentleness. Let’s read the list from Galatians 5:22 again and then think about patience, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Our culture has coined the term “instant gratification” that somewhat defines the opposite of patience. Waiting tends to be tedious, and we may not do it well. But the patient person has learned to take his time, thoroughly complete a job, and work well with people who are not on his time table.

Sometimes our overcrowded schedules trigger impatience and even rude behavior. We’ve piled so many things into our days that if anything goes awry (and they do and will), then we get snappish, out of sorts, and ill tempered. And our family and co-workers tuck tail and hide away or snap back.

Ok. If you lack patience, you’ve probably zeroed in on at least one area where you lack self-control. It’s not enough to just identify the problem area. For betterment, one must practice patience. I’ll share four steps to aid in becoming more patient.

First, since patience is fruit of the Spirit, ask for wisdom, insight and guidance in embracing this value. The more I’ve contemplated that all these qualities are embedded in God, the more humbled I am. The only way we really receive patience is through him, and being aware of our own frailties. So, the first step is to ask for God’s help in overcoming impatience.

Second, watch for opportunities to make a “patient sacrifice” – step out of the checkout lane and let the next person go first, even when you are hurried. Wave someone into merging traffic. Let that semi truck, with his turn signal on, go ahead of you. That’ll slow you down as the driver shifts through 13 gears to get moving. He’s had to be patient with cars darting around him all day. Return the favor.

Third, practice patience in listening to those around you. Wait. Let them tell their story. Stop what you are doing. Look into their eyes. Really listen. Don’t be thinking of a comeback, a matching story, or an angry retort. Simply respond with a pleasant acknowledgement of what they told you. James says it well, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (1:19).

Finally, practice patience through waiting. Wait to buy. Wait to respond, count to ten. Wait until mealtime to eat. Practice choosing healthier foods, not what you crave. You’ll train yourself away from instant gratification, and your waistline will thank you.

If waiting is torture to you, then plant a garden. Flowers, vegetables, or herbs -- plant them and literally put a sign on a stake that says “Patience Garden.” Waiting on blossoms and color and fresh vegetables will remind you of God’s timetable, his natural speed bumps. Each time you water, weed, or fertilize, the activity will remind you of your partnership with God.

He will plant patience and you can watch it grow.

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