When I was little, my sisters and I loved to listen to records on our record player. We weren’t allowed to listen to music that could be categorized as a) current andb) secular and c) Michael Jackson (a.k.a. the trinity of unholiness) so our “playlist” consisted of a very eclectic mix for small children. There were John Philip Sousa marches that gave us that extra energy we needed to clean up our room. We listened to the Andrews Sisters as they sang their rendition of some hilarious polkas. (“We Have No Bananas Today” was one of our favorites.) My mom was crazy about The Carpenters. I can still sing every word of “We’ve Only Just Begun.” Although those albums were secular, they weren’t current so our sensitive ears were safe.
We could also choose from a collection of Christian artists. There was the Bill Gaither Trio singing to us about how we’re all “kids under construction.” There was one really creepy looking album cover of a puppet named Little Marcy. Her puppeteer was sitting next to her at the piano. There was something unnerving about the exaggerated smile on her plastic face—like she was about to slowly turn her head to look at me, Chucky-style. It didn’t help that one of her songs was called “When Mr. Satan Knocks at My Heart’s Door” and she sang it in this tinny, superficial voice. We didn’t listen to Little Marcy very often but we did like to listen to “The Music Machine” album. It had a running storyline about some kids and a guy in a band uniform learning about the Fruits of the Spirit. The most memorable song was sung by a snail named Herbert. Being a snail, Herbert sang slow and low, an effect we knew how to create with any album just by switching the speed selector next to the needle arm. (If things had worked out differently, I probably could’ve been a DJ. It’s possible.) The chorus would drone on like this (imagine me singing the following like a depressed gastropod who is sliming slowly forward to his ultimate death): “Have patience. Have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry. When you get impatient, you only start to worry. Remember, remember that God is patient too. And think of all the times when others have to wait for you.” (I bet you never thought I was going to get to the title of the post, did you? Well, you have to have patience sometimes. See what I did there? Golden. This is deep stuff.)
According to my own unscientific observations, patience is harder to come by than ever. With cell phones that can make lists, shop, email, text, and download entire books all while you’re waiting in the car line, we’ve taught ourselves and our kids that we don’t have to wait for anything. “Oh, you’re bored while we’re grocery shopping? Poor baby! How cruel to make you suffer through this errand that will eventually feed you. Here’s my phone. Watch Toy Story 3.” Do you know what my sisters and I did when we went shopping with our mom? We took turns pretending to be blind as the other sisters led us around, bumping into shelves and displays. We entertained ourselves. I rarely wait in any lines any more. If there is more than one person in the line ahead of me at Kroger’s I start looking up at the screen hanging above the door to see if they’re going to open another register. “This is ten minutes of my life and it’s wasted! I could be playing Scramble on my phone! Oh, wait, I can do it here in line. Never mind. We’re good. Take your time.”
So here are some intentional ways to teach yourself to be patient.
Grow a garden. This is a definite exercise in patience. Waiting for tomatoes to ripen can be painful, especially if you miss a day at your ripening vigil and the birds get them first.
Walk—not drive—to as many places as you can. We walk to school most mornings and home again in the afternoon. It takes us fifteen minutes if we’re going at an easy pace. If I drive, I can be there in about ninety seconds. It takes some planning but the conversations I’ve had with my kids about the day they’re about to have and the one they just finished are priceless.
Cook from scratch more often. For the most part, I enjoy cooking. There are some nights when things have to be quick but if I can spend an hour and a half or more listening to “All Things Considered” on the radio with an apron tied around my waist, I’m usually pretty satisfied.
Recently, my most trying exercise in patience has been waiting to go and get our son in Africa. We were matched at the beginning of the summer and he’s been a constant in my thoughts ever since. He’ll be two years old in January. For some reason, I’ve got it in my head that I must have him home by his birthday. There’s always the chance that everything will get slowed down and we won’t be able to go by then but I’ve needed a date so that I can process the waiting—even if the date is wrong. There are times when I can understand why God gives me something to wait for so that other things can fall into place first or just so I can see that my personal schedule isn’t in God’s iPhone calendar. He may have a completely different timeframe. My job is to be patient and I hate it but He never said it would be simple or fast. He called Brent and me to bring a child home. It turns out that the paperwork and fingerprinting and writing multiple checks were the easy part. As Tom Petty once sang (Yes, I did eventually listen to more than polkas and The Carpenters), “The waiting is the hardest part. Every day you get one more card. You take it on faith, you take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part.”