My father was a very patient man, but he had his limits. He didn’t “lose it” very often. The trials experienced through his life in the Great Depression and the Navy, taught him to bury his fear in Christ and he learned to live a worry free life most of the time. His example points to the patience of Christ which encourages me to apply in my own life.
Who was or is an example of patience in your life?
What does patience mean?
Historically, patience as understood in the Wisdom Literature of Proverbs points to a temperament of forbearance or equanimity in spirit, describing a sense of humility as opposed to an inflated spirit. The Psalmist uses patience as waiting persistently on God to act when other help has failed. Patience possesses as certain steadfastness in the ability to bear up under pain or evil when necessary.
In the New Testament, patience has to do with either circumstances or persons.
When one experiences a form of injury, patience enables a person not to be provoked by others or to lose one’s what we would call today, “emotional intelligence.” Sustaining patience under various trials means that one does not lose heart or courage. Patience is seen, especially in interpersonal conflict, to be an attribute of God. Calm “endurance” would be another synonym for patience.
Patience is important because we all face various hindrances, temptations and the like in our inward and outward world. (I Thessalonians).
What is it that allows someone to be patient? How do we manifest this calm, enduring and perseverant spirit where we act out of the solitude of God instead of the irritability of the ego?
To have God possess one’s soul means that we seek God to dwell within the center of our being as opposed to whatever happens in our mind at the time which can be self-referencing at times. Our thoughts often contribute to impatience. In contrast, to resonate in God’s stillness means that we remain still when the winds put us in harm’s way. We focus on God instead of our thoughts.
What does it mean when we “lose patience?” What is it that we have lost?
It’s like the story of Peter who jumps out of the boat on the water when Jesus beckons him. Peter was doing fine until his gaze fell off of Jesus looking down at the choppy waters surrounding him.
In today’s gospel, Cleopas and his friend were walking the 7 mile journey to Emmaus from Jerusalem. They were beside themselves with confusion, grief and anxiety when Jesus joined them in their walk. Jesus maintains his patience with them, even while calling them foolish not to believe what the prophets taught about the Messiah. Jesus’ patience gave his disciples “heartburn.” Not the ailment, but the Love of Christ’s presence being infused into their being so Cleopas said, “Did not our hearts burn while he was among us?”
When one is confounded by emotion, one has already lost patience because one’s focus has abandoned conscious contact with God and attached itself to the fear of the mind. Attaching to the threat instead of remaining attached to God will yield emotional reactivity and intensify conflict.
But when we focus on the presence of God, we can act with a more relative calm.
The anxiety of impatience escalates because the fear of the unwanted outcome predominates over the trust in the initiated intervention. And if we are too attached to our fears we become hindered in intervening because the anxiety inhibit our ability to function and respond. Impatience also comes from believing that the outcome depends on us instead of God. Another factor in impatience is that it often stems from previous events in our life that in some way threatened us.
If we are facing an undesired outcome or observing another facing the same, our anxiety is likely to rise if we have faced a similar event in the past from which our anxiety and wounds have not been healed. Impatience is a gift in that it gives us clues about what within our past has not yet been healed.
An example of this is when I worked for Child Protective Services twenty years ago. I noticed a number of caseworkers who were very impatient, some angrily so, only to discover that they too, at some earlier period in their lives were abused or abandoned. This kind of anxiety can interfere in one’s professional response to events. I am not being critical here—only to point out what remains unhealed in our past is often reflected in what we are impatient about today.
The solution to impatience? No matter what the root of our impatience is, immersing ourselves in the calming waters of the presence of God and allowing his spirit to touch our wounds, fear, anxiety and shortsightedness is the way to patience. Being patient doesn’t mean that we do not act, such as in the case of stepping forward to intervene or setting a boundary—but that we do so calmly from the Spirit.
Patience, peace and other spiritual gifts are not a separate commodity to be had, as if they were separate from God. God is patience and God is Peace. Divinity radiates patience and peace as a part of the Divine being. Within the presence of the Divine, we radiate the same patience and peace. This is our birth right being made in God’s image and likeness. We will be more able to respond in the Spirit’s likeness that to react out of fear.
Where is the irritability of impatience draining your life? How might we discover the peace of God that passes our understanding within our impatience?
Seek God—or assistance to seek God to find your way through it if you are stuck in impatience—as life is too precious to allow impatience to consume our joy. Patience reflects the uninhibited Joy of Christ living in and through us.