Patience

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I pulled up to the pump at Safeway. 

Mike, grey-haired, a bit grizzly in appearance, with a cap on his head and bandana for a mask arrived at my care after a few moments. He apologized for the wait. I responded, “I am good at waiting.” As he pumped, Mike talked.

As if it had happened yesterday, Mike said, “My 7 year old son and me are fishing in a small boat, see. No larger than your car.” I drive a 2-door, VW, Golf — so it is a smaller car. Mike likes the present tense.

“My son is on one side and I on the other. We are using the same type of lure, weight, and bait. We have been there in silence for a while, and suddenly, my son has a fish on his line and reels it in. I glance as the boy pulls that fish over the side, unhooks it and strings it on the line in the bucket. He puts on a new worm and casts his line out again, like a pro. 

“I am thinking, The boy is no more than two feet awafrom me and he catches one already?

“It is not more than a moment later, and again, my son is pulling another fish over the side of the boat. With deft efficiency he unhooks this one, and also strings it onto the line in the bucket. Now. This is ridiculous! I think. That son catches two fish 2-feet away from me and I have not a nibble! Frustrated, I turn to my son and say “Son, how are you catching those fish?“ He looks back at me as calm as can be says, ‘Dad, you got to have patience!’

Laughing, Mike continued, “I don’t think I ever learn it. This boy is now in his 30s and he still is teaching me patience.” 

I laughed with Mike but the story and message landed. 

Patience. 

This is not our favorite class, “Patience 101.” It is about which we warn one another, “Don’t pray for patience, the Lord might give it to you.” Meaning, we only learn patience by walking through situations which require it. 

How are you when traffic slows to a walk and you are in a hurry? What happens inside or does something snap? Did your blood pressure go up, just reading that sentence? 

What are grocery store lines like for you? Do you use them creatively? A dear friend tells a Bible story to those standing alongside her anytime she has more than a couple minutes in a line. But I have other friends, who find the need to wait infuriating. 

A red light changes green but the guy in front of you is reading a text or is it a book? He is sitting there! You honk but still he does not awaken from his phone. Then, he notices after the light turns yellow and speeds through it. You get stuck behind the red light. Again. How does this strike you? 

Lines, traffic, delays, pandemics, waiting rooms, illness, anticipation of vacation, etc., all take patience. 

I’m still learning how to let life be. Although, I was telling Mike the truth, I’ve found delays are part of every journey. And, it is true, waiting does me good. 

Still, it is the ability to wait, to listen, to be still, to allow God to lead when something has slowed me down which is crucial. 

Hurry can cause injury. 

Decades back, we had left the house later than expected. As a result, we arrived where we lived for my weekend assignment at nearly 11 pm. We were tired, stretched.

Our youngest, only months old at the time had screamed most of the last hour of our drive no matter what Karen did to console her. Anxious to get inside and get the kids to bed, I wrenched the first load from the car, and ran up the steps, swung open the screen door, unlocked and opened the interior white, wooden door with a window in it and heaved the suitcases onto the old linoleum kitchen floor.

I ran back to the car, picked up our 2-year-old daughter, who nestled her head against my shoulder, sound asleep. As I went back up the steps, wrenched open the screen door and entered, I misjudged the timing, the screen door swung back against my heel, the lower corner of the door gouged into my foot above my heel. Pain ricocheted through my body. Blood dripped from my heel as I carried our daughter inside, laid her on her bed, then rinsed off my foot and wrapped gauze around it. Wiped up the blood.

That rush meant a long recovery. There was no rushing to get stitches. We had just arrived. I limped for a few weeks on that injured foot.

Hurry. It sabotages our progress. It brings injury. It hinders others around us.

One thing we say often in mediation is “Slow Down the process.” Conflict and anger tends to be fast paced. We often form a response while another is speaking and speak it instead of listening to what was said.

It is helpful when conflict is happening to slow the mediation down. Slow down people in their fast track from anger to blame to retaliation. It is amazing what happens in a room brimming with conflict when I say something like. “Well, it sounds like you each believe very different things. These are two stories which are far from one another. What do you what to do with this? What is a way to meet between them?” This statement slows people down. They think, “What, we can resolve this?” When I wait, slowing down the moment, letting the facts sink in, amazing things result.

Pause.

Breathe in the fresh air.

Wait in line…

without tapping your foot, or checking your watch or phone, but instead, notice the people around you or perhaps even speak to them.

Watch to see who is around you and how they might be doing.

Notice a sunrise or sunset.

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