Patience is a virtue…Virtue is a grace…Grace is the little girl who didn’t wash her face.
That little ditty is childish, but I remember it because of its incongruity. The high minded elements of virtue somehow seem at odds with the picture of a little kid with a face covered by dirty smudge marks.
I‘ll be the first to admit, that Patience has not been a virtue which I’ve eagerly sought. And to be frank, there’s precious little in my modern world which actively supports a drive to learn more about this character trait.
My world, as is your, is fueled in large degree by human impatience. Food is nuked in the microwave to speed up the cooking process. Dial-up service has been replaced by DSL for computers. Cooking is something that many no longer do simply because it takes time.
But, what are we using this extra time to actually do? Studies show that the average person spends at least 5 hours a day in leisure including approximately 2.7 hours watching images racing across a TV screen. This was in contrast to the amount of time (1.1 hours) spent reading a book and 46 minutes per day spent on providing primary care to children between the ages of 6 – 17. (Primary care was defined as primary activity done with children such as reading to them or taking physical care of them)
So, why is it that patience is something we struggle with so much? Perhaps because we instinctively know that it’s hard…really hard work to develop this character trait. It’s certainly not ingrained in our human nature. Witness the loud wails of a newborn when mom delays a meal for a minute.
Yet, 1 Corinthians 13 starts off it’s description of Love by telling us that this is precisely what Love is. Love is Patient! In fact you could group the first two descriptive traits about love together in a fashion. Like two sides of the same coin…patience is the passive component of love while kindness might be thought of as love in action.
Patience is the inner resilience which does not strike back in the face of antagonistic behavior. It’s the unique ability within love to wait through the discomfort that is an on-going part of human interaction and support the other individual with grace and dignity even when their actions offend.
It is indeed a virtue which is developed in us through the ongoing grace of God’s work in our lives precisely through circumstances which tempt us to be impatient. I think where the ditty goes awry is in the descriptive of grace…but perhaps not as awfully as one might first suspect.
Because it is God’s grace in our lives, despite our uncleanliness, ugliness and selfishness which most exemplifies His love and patience towards us. In many ways, we are like ‘Grace’…the little girl with an unwashed face whom the Father loves unconditionally. Not because she’s perfect and all cleaned up…but precisely because she isn’t. And for that…I remain grateful.
Picture courtesy of Mexikids on Flickr w/Creative Commons