SLOW CHANGE. I’m not gonna lie: Slow is sort of a four-letter word for me. When I’m on a mission- watch out! I generally feel like a cowgirl prodding a horse hollering “ya ya!” But since I’m a mother of four, It’s often a little more like driving an unhinged stagecoach and I need a bullhorn to be heard above the madness of my wild horses (I mean children) snorting and stomping.
<SLOW>. No thank you; I want fast. I want quick. I want it over with. It may not help that I rank extremely high on ‘assertiveness’ and my Enneagram is a 7 (always looking for a new life experience). Next. Next. Let’s go. Let’s go. Hurry up, Hurry Up, HURRY-HURRY UP!
And while this is my natural drive, I’ve had several life experiences that have helped temper me with that other four-letter word: WAIT. Like a wild pony, I’ve needed a patient trainer, one who would calm my fears and teach me in small steps how to walk and not run. I was granted a dear roommate who was differently-abled, born with Cerebral Palsy. She had many physical challenges that required patience and assistance. I was not a saint, but at the age of 18, I started to think more of others’ needs and not just my own.
After college, I became a live-in nanny of two teen girls, which made me a suburban soccer mom at the age of 22. Ca-rlines, tennis lessons, soccer practices, pick-ups, laundry, more car-lines, 4 hours a day of Boston traffic, I was always waiting in the busyness of life. It was also coupled with 10 hours alone each day (while the girls were off at school and after work hours). This served as a giant PAUSE in life. There’s something about being alone which can make the time pass so SLOWLY to the point of being painful. All of these moments were molding, tempering, and training my inner drive to not always live life according to MY way.
While most of these are life lessons in learning to wait in the doldrums of daily life, I also struggled with WAITING when it came to my life dreams. I wanted to get married and have children… and it seemed that it was never going to happen. Those years of singleness were spent struggling and wrestling with the desire for a family of my own. My aspirations of having a fulfilling career or ministry are presently still ahead of me. I’m still waiting to have enough time to write the book(s) I’ve always wanted.
Why is waiting so hard? Well, sometimes it’s a matter of giving up control and a feeling of helplessness. If I don’t DO SOMETHING, doesn’t that mean nothing will ever happen? Of course, there is certainly a time and place for action; if I didn’t remove the dead raccoon from my yard last week, I certainly would have regretted my inaction There are times when I foolishly pick something before it is ready. I had likely never eaten an avocado by the time I was in my 20’s as a nanny, yet I bought one for a mango salsa swordfish recipe. Knowing nothing about avocados, I bought one completely unripe. I chopped it up and had NO IDEA why it was so hard to cut! Bless their hearts, my nanny family never complained at the meals I fixed. But really, someone should have told me: “This is an avocado, and this, my dear, is a ripe avocado!” Surely, some things are worth the wait.
How do we know when to act and when to wait? Through training and a wise teacher. Just as a horse trainer or a personal trainer knows how to encourage their student to exceed his current limits, she must first build trust to teach the new habit. It is this TRUST which allows the student to push through the pain because they feel protected, purposed, or they are willing to endure plainly out of the desire to please the trusted trainer. Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit to be our wise counselor who will bear and support us in our pain and grant us wisdom on knowing when to stand and when to act. Jesus, the man with the most important mission in the world, did not push others along to accomplish His task. We never sense a hurried or frenzied pace, He is attentive in each moment, taking each person at a time, holding each with care and concern.
Patience (the adjective of patient) comes from the word Latin word patientem “bearing, supporting, suffering, enduring, permitting.” Inherent in its very definition is the reality of PAIN. Patience is submitting to pain, allowing it to make its mark upon us, but instead of sowing hate it blooms into love. Gracious me. That is hard stuff.
LORD KNOWS patience is really nowhere in my natural state but is only possible with spiritual help any time I choose:
People over projects.
People over pride.
People over power.
People over my preferences.
And I WAIT… treating other people as persons. Persons with their own problems, their own projects, their own need for power, and their own preferences. This means I must die a little to myself, ‘and in humility consider others better than myself.’ This doesn’t mean I become a doormat and abandon any sense of self, but that I see the world through the lens of others first.
Truly a patient person is very much like JESUS. “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:6-8 ESV
Amazingly, even when my desires of marriage were answered– I found my lack of patience and need for control was still ever-present. I struggled with some chronic pain and health issues that left me feeling helpless and longing for healing. Looking for support, I was blessed to join Celebrate Recovery for a year where I learned one of my favorite prayers, which helps me endure those four-letter words: slow, wait, & pain.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever and ever in the next. Amen.
The Serenity Prayer Attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr