Every day is an invitation for us to practice simple patience. But is patience ever simple?
In the summer of 1983, my impatience took an ugly turn in the middle of the Congo. In the middle of a missions trip showing the JESUS film in remote villages. (I know you’re jealous of my evening sweat sock attire). Near the end of our trip, I was recovering from a bout of malaria and waited with my teammates for a cargo truck—eleven hours behind schedule because of a flat tire—to take us to a village with a bus headed for the capital city.
Exhausted, sore, and famished, I let the students board the bus ahead of me. Just as I lifted my backpack into the stairwell of the bus, a Congolese woman with a chicken under one arm and a bag strapped on the other wedged her lithe body in front of me. I couldn’t believe her rudeness. Her forceful jostling sparked instinctive fear in me over losing a seat on the bus. I lightly poked my elbow into her back and stammered for words she’d understand in Francophone Africa. I shouted, “Excusez vous!” Not excusez moi, but excuse YOU!
I wanted to scream, “Out of my way-y-y-y-y,” as we twist in a luggage gridlock, but she held a beady-eyed chicken under her arm and gave me a vexing look of a disgruntled witch doctor.
At that moment in that dusty Congolese village, all vestiges of patience drained from my being. But just as quickly as evil thoughts lined up like wallflowers in my head, I sensed God’s calming spirit. I chose to let this stranger board ahead of me, even if it meant I’d be left in the village for another miserable day of waiting.
Waiting Refines Us
Thankfully, God saved me a seat that morning, and more importantly, He increased my understanding that waiting refines in us the character of patience. Bit by bit, waiting for people to show up, waiting when we’re literally sick and tired, and waiting when we’re pushed outside our comfort zone can sand off our edginess. Nineteenth-century theologian Horace Bushnell explained, “The greatest and sublimest power is often simple patience.”
Simple patience. Take it from sometimes impatient me, there’s power in standing up to haste and irritability in life’s waits, even if we encounter pushy, poultry-toting strangers.
What trips you up when it comes to staying calm and sensible? How to you handle the times when you want to shout, “Out of my way”? Here’s to taking time to practice the power of simple patience.
Adapted from Two Days Longer by Beth Lueders, (Howard Publishing, 2006), pages 112-116.