Patience has become almost a dirty word in our fast-paced western world. We all want fast food, immediate answers, speedy service and short lines at the grocery store. Even conversing with someone who talks a bit slow can be frustrating to people like me who, shall we say, sometimes lack patience (ask my husband and children!) Quick wit, quick analysis of problems, quick completion of tasks – these are the things that are rewarded in our corporate culture. In most of my past jobs, especially when I was a school administrator, superior time management was the most prized quality; inefficiency the greatest sin. I subscribe to a great podcast called Radiolab, and I recently listened to an episode all about SPEED. It was illuminating and rather scary to hear about the mad race to bring out newer, faster technologies to satisfy our collective impatience.
Contrast this with Mary, who exemplifies patience. What an enriching Lenten exercise to meditate on this aspect of her character…her patience in accepting the Angel Gabriel’s announcement that she would bear God’s Son, without demanding to know all the future implications for her life; her patience with Joseph as he came to terms with her pregnancy; her patience while she waited for the birth of Jesus; her patience as she witnessed her Son’s life and ministry unfold and pondered all these things in her heart; her patience as she stood at the foot of the cross, waiting for Him to die; her patience as she walked alongside the apostles in the challenging early years of the church.
I sometimes get depressed when I contemplate my son’s slow advancement towards better health. As much as I’d love to rush the process, it’s obvious that we have a long road ahead of us with his neurological disorders. There are no easy answers or quick fixes for Tourette’s Syndrome. But in order to cope I’ve been forced to live life one day at a time – noticing and celebrating the small successes as they come. Basically, it has required me to stop rushing around like an impulsive, crazy little rabbit, and most especially to stop basing my actions on my fears for the future. Instead, God has been inviting me to slow down and open my eyes fully to the present – and that has been a wonderful gift. I see the truth in Mother Teresa’s warning to us all: “We cannot find God in noise and agitation.”
Revelations 3: 20 always touches me deeply: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” The way that the Creator of the Universe paints Himself in this picture of patience is a clear illustration of His commitment to us. He refuses to barge in – but He also doesn’t walk away just because no one answers His knock. His example of loving patience, standing at the door and waiting, leads me to want to return that commitment, to work in partnership with Him in the growth and restoration of my own spirit and that of others.
The journey to Profession as a Secular Franciscan is not rushed. It’s a time of formation – and transformation – not just a time of instruction. It’s spread over three or four years to allow for exploration and study and reflection, in community with other travelers on the same road. For me, it’s been a good lesson in learning to accept God’s pace, whatever that might be, in the midst of a world that seeks instant gratification. It necessitates making certain choices, kind of like the choice between microwaving a processed, pre-packaged meal for supper, or taking the time to dig out the slow-cooker early in the morning, find my mom’s Irish Stew recipe, do some chopping and slicing and then let the ingredients simmer for hours. No question about which one requires more effort…but also no question about which one tastes better at the end of the day.
“Live deep instead of fast.”
-Henry Seidel Canby