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 listened 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 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 that’s what God has asked of me.
The word patience comes from patient, which means to suffer. That’s what patience is, suffering. It’s not always severe pain but often irritation, inconvenience, or indignation. It may involve our or someone else’s error, wrongdoing, or oversight that makes us late. We feel frustrated and that life is unfair.
A more complete definition of patience is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”
From great tragedies to little annoyances
We know delay, trouble or suffering can be expected but we just don’t want to see them when they come. 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 life’s greatest tragedies but they are 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 before it’s clear to turn or to make a left turn into oncoming traffic. I find myself reluctant to let others go ahead of me because it will slow me down.
Doesn’t everything seem faster now, so that when we do have to wait it is less tolerable? Emails and texts move in a split second. Food is faster. Shopping takes a click with instant credit.
Love is patient
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 top attribute of love, according to St. Paul, who writes that love isn’t just patient when you’ve got the 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 land to return home. Through it all they waited for centuries for the 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.
The Lord shows us how to be patient
The good thing is, God came through anyway. He got them settled and later resettled on the land. Then he sent his Son to save us and show us how to be patient.
I know he gives me opportunities to be patient—I just need to accept the grace to take advantage of them!
Eventually my insurance problem was resolved. I have health coverage for 2015, for which I am truly grateful. But 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.