The third attitude of evangelical parenthood is patience. As we write this, we’ve just returned from a stint at the grocery store – one that we thought was going to be 30 minutes. An hour and a half later, we’ve just put up the last of the groceries. And …. where are/were our children? Somewhere else. While they’ve missed the work, we’re pretty sure that they will not be missing any of the meals or snacks that were just stuffed in the pantry.
We’ve heard that patience is a virtue – one that we seem to be lacking at this moment. Isn’t it ironic that we need to write a post right now, explaining how to cultivate an attitude of patience to you? All when, in fact, we’ve failed at its practice less than 30 minutes ago. Nonetheless, the clock’s ticking. And this post needs posting. No time for patience. So, maybe we can pass along some wisdom from this experience.
First, patience requires patience with ourselves. Frequently, people can be least patient with themselves. In our experience, as we grow more impatient with our failures at the practice of any virtue (but particularly patience), it seems that we grow more impatient with others. So, as impatience presents itself, recognize it for what it is and acknowledge it. Then stop and ask God for the grace to overcome the impatience. In your head count to 20 or say an “Our Father”, a “Hail Mary”, and a “Glory Be” before you respond to the impatience building up inside of you. Be patient with yourself.
Second, patience requires practice. So, work on patience for the next 30 days. Make it the one virtue on which you will focus for the next four weeks. Heck, make it one of your Lenten sacrifices. In the morning, remind yourself that you will practice patience. Make it part of your morning offering. “Lord, I offer you today my practice of patience in union with the unbelievable patience you exhibited on the Cross”. Then, as you go through the day, keep track of the opportunities God gives you to practice it. Thank Him for the opportunities. Then, prayerfully attempt to respond patiently. Throughout the day, keep track of your response to the situations that present themselves – the light that turns red right before you get there, the computer that slows down when you need to get something done, the customer that talks rudely to you, the child who demands that you stop what you are doing in order to take him and his friend to the movies, etc.. At night, before you go to bed, do an examination of conscience focusing solely on patience – literally, how many times did I act patiently even when I might have felt impatient? How many opportunities did I have? Offer both your successes and your failures to God. Do this for a month. You may be amazed at the outcome – the impact of your focused work coupled with God’s grace.
Third, patience requires prayer. Once a friend asked if they could pray for anything for us. We asked her to pray for patience for us. She kindly refused, saying that she would pray for anything but patience. When asked why, she responded with the following, “if I do, God will send you situations that require patience. I can’t be responsible for those situations.” She spoke the truth. If we ask for a virtue, we must practice that virtue which means we must be placed in situations that require that virtue. So, maybe instead of just praying for patience, we might ask for both the grace to recognize the situation as an opportunity to practice it and the grace to respond patiently.
Finally, patience requires an act of the will. Patience is a virtue, not an emotion. We may feel impatience welling up inside of us, but that feeling is not a vice. It’s just a feeling. How we choose to act is where virtue and vice are determined. Will patience in spite of the impatient feelings. When that person cuts in front of you in line and you begin to feel impatient, will patience with God’s help.
Remember that in order to evangelize anyone and particularly our children, we need to be patient. Patient with our failures, with their failures, with their inconsiderateness, with their lack of thoughtfulness, or with their lack of being there to help with the groceries. If we exhibit patience, they will catch a glimpse of God Himself, the whole point of evangelization. They will see in us a God who is patient with us when we sin, a God who patiently waits for us to turn around and come back to Him. If they see that, our words about this God will be more readily received. Our evangelization will be more effective. We will be evangelical parents by living out the mystery of parenthood, by making visible the patience and love of our invisible God. Let’s commit today to cultivate patience! May God bless us all in our attempts!