Learning Patience in the Little Things

by | Nov 30, 2015 | 3 Meek

OPENED 15Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).
Without managing time, I could not deliver posts like this to subscribers every Monday and Thursday morning at 7:00 a.m. I could not give my undivided attention to a full caseload of psychotherapy clients every week while managing a college counseling center. Neither could I make proper time for family responsibilities and precious time with my wife. No doubt I must remain attentive to my priorities and decisions as I plan ahead and respond moment-by-moment to interruptions, adjustments, and follow-through.
So I could not pursue my vocations as a husband, therapist, writer, or anything else without an adequate discipline of time management. But let me confess that nothing backs my spirit into a corner like my schedule and the additional pressures I impose: Perfectionistic self-expectations. Feeling like an imposter on the verge of exposure. That nagging sense that I am forgetting something. And indeed forgetting the most important thing: that I do not face my mounting challenges and responsibilities alone.
The perverse security I gain from this madness stands in the way of letting it go. When I feel the steel bands of stress tighten around my shoulders, neck, and face, when I point to a long to-do list and cluttered calendar, I can believe that I am doing my best. But such consolations brook no rest.
During Advent, Christians mark holy waiting for Christ. We too easily accommodate Advent to inner pressure not just to manage but to master time, so we create a Christmas season filled with shopping, holiday events, and social rituals. We postpone indefinitely the quiet and stillness needed to wait.
We never want to wait. We find alien the sweet anticipation of the psalmist’s refrain,

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch
for the morning,
more than those who watch
for the morning” (Psalm 130:5-6).

How shall we cultivate this countercultural serenity?
Human error imposes so much waiting, and frustration triples when I commit the error that causes delay. Sometimes I exclaim under my breath, “My God, I just want to get on with life!” But the Spirit answers: This is life, this waiting for the store’s new hire trying to figure out how to work the cash register, this waiting for myself as I search for the important documents I misplaced.
Jesus said that without faithfulness in little things, I cannot be faithful in the great ones (Luke 16:10). Every exercise in patient and compassionate waiting prepares me for the most important, the coming of Christ. Only through seeing Christ in the person who slowed me down, even when that person is me, will I observe Advent rightly. May I embrace that challenge.


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