Impatient people in an impatient world

Photo by Ramon Souza
Photo by Ramon Souza

“God grant me patience,” the old joke goes, “and grant it to me now.”

That’s the irony.  Patience requires cultivation, cultivation takes time, and time requires patience.  But perhaps the lesson is similar to what Jesus taught his disciples about faith.  What we need is a mustard seed of patience.  Even knowing we need patience and having the presence of mind to ask God for it can be a start, provided we are willing to surrender ourselves to the prayer we just made instead of nursing our grievances.

It’s Sunday morning.  My wife and I have just come from our fellowship group, where I taught a lesson from 1 Corinthians 13 on love as patience and kindness.  We’ve done a little grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s (very little, since I left my wallet at home again) and we’re heading out of the parking lot.  We’re in a line of traffic going one way, and there’s a line of traffic coming the other way.

Suddenly a driver, seeing an opening, shoots out from one of the side aisles, turning left and squeezing in between the cars going both directions.  Everyone else hits the brakes to avoid a collision.  The end result?  The hurried driver ends up sitting at a long red light anyway.

I doubt that I would have done something as dangerous as that.  But that’s not to say that I don’t understand the impulse.  How many times have I changed lanes on the freeway to get a little further ahead on my commute?  Realistically, however, I doubt that I’ve ever saved more than a few minutes at best behaving that way, and probably at the cost of annoying other drivers.

A few minutes?  Probably less.  And I spend at least that much time staring into space trying to remember what the next thing on my schedule was supposed to be.

I am frequently an impatient person in an impatient world.  As we drove out of the Trader Joe’s parking lot, it occurred to me that it was supposed to be a Sabbath day.  Not a day for hurrying.  Not a day for all the varied expressions of my impatience, but a day of rest, a day for sinking into the assurance that God is still God despite all the little things that I would change if someone put me in charge.

If God can suffer the indignity of my sin with patience and kindness, maybe with his help I can learn a little patience myself.