I’ve had a lot of time to think while sitting on hold with Minnesota’s health insurance exchange during the past month. While I waited, I had to listen to Kenny G or a clone play the same nasally music snippet again and again as I thought of my depleting cell minutes.
I was told a computer glitch was preventing my insurance application from going through. No one in three agencies seemed to know much about the problem except that it had to be corrected by one of the others.
My experience has me thinking about patience—not that I’ve been so patient. It does seem, though, that patience is what God has asked of me.
Patience and suffering
The word patience comes from patient, which means to suffer. That might mean severe pain but I think more often irritation or inconvenience at an oversight or act of nature that make us wait. It’s frustrating and feels unfair.
A more complete definition of patience is, “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”
We know delay, trouble or suffering can be expected but we’d rather not see them. Like when my jacket lining gets caught in the zipper. Or when my purse strap loops around my car gear shift–again! These are not great tragedies but annoyances that cost precious seconds in the race of life.
Leo Tolstoy recognized that it’s a battle to be patient: “The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.”
Patience seems to be losing these days, on the road at least. Fewer folks will wait until traffic passes to turn and the green light seems to get longer and longer. I find myself reluctant to let others go ahead of me because it will slow me down.
Life is faster
Doesn’t everything seem faster now, so that when we do have to wait it’s less tolerable? Emails and texts move in a split second. Food is faster. Shopping takes a click with instant credit.
Some say we shouldn’t be too patient or we’ll be left behind. What the world doesn’t understand is that patience is the first attribute of love, according to St. Paul, who writes that love isn’t just patient when you have time but ALWAYS.
It also makes sense to be patient if you want to get things done, from zipping your jacket to closing a complex business deal. Archbishop Fulton Sheen put it this way:
“Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is ‘timing.’ It waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.”
The Israelites living before Christ had to wait. It took them 40 years to enter the Promised Land. Later they waited in exile in a foreign country to return home. Through it all they waited for centuries for a Messiah that God had promised. The Jewish people are still waiting.
Scripture shows that they weren’t always patient. Like me they got upset and angry when they should have accepted or tolerated delay, trouble or suffering.
God sent his Son to help with this
The good thing is, God came through anyway. He settled and later resettled the Israelites on the land. Then he sent his Son to save us and show us how to be patient.
I know God gives me opportunities to be patient. Sometimes these opportunities seem like gifts I wish I hadn’t opened. If I’m actually going to act on them, I need God’s help—the grace he offers. If I do accept his grace they usually turn out to be good gifts.
Eventually my insurance problem was resolved. I have health coverage for 2015 and I’m truly grateful. Most of all, I am thankful that Christ came quietly and gently as a baby 2,000 years ago, bringing new life to an impatient world.