Learning to tie your shoes - I'm not sure who it's more frustrating for, the one learning or the one teaching. But it definitely is a picture of patience...no, wait! We have velcro now, so patience is really not necessary.
Our first ingredient that we toss in our 11 quart pot is patience. It's interesting to me that patience is the first on the list, since it is a rare ingredient to find in the world of character development. I think it's because love needs a lot of patience. It reminds me of ingredient lists on food products, where the largest ingredient is listed first. Is it possible that patience might really be that important?
Patient defined: bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc. with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger or the like. (dictionary.com)
When we read that love is patient, we get the first hint of the sacrificial nature of love. Provocation, annoyance, hardship, pain - in a relationship where these aspects are evident, only a loving response could produce patience. The picture of a parent teaching their child to tie their shoe is not really the crisis that demands patience. So to flesh this out, let's look at Jesus first.
In a discourse encouraging people to honor authority, especially unjust authority, Peter uses Jesus as our ultimate example:
"For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience towards God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth, and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed." I Peter 2:19-24
Enduring harsh treatment with patience, do what is right and patiently endure suffering, follow in His steps, no sin, no deceit, no reviling, entrusting Himself to His Father - these are all results of applying patience. In Jesus's life, He endured much by setting his eyes on the Father. He came to do the will of the Father (John 6:38) and in John 8:29, Jesus says this: "And He who sent me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him." Jesus set His eyes on pleasing the Father, knowing He was not alone, and having patience - not lashing out in anger, not showing weakness or anxiousness, or complaining, but quiet strength which trusts God's timing in all things - having patience, Jesus completed the will of the Father through His death.
So how are you with patience? Ask someone close to you - children, spouse, parent, best friend - Am I a patient person? How do you see patience or impatience in my life? Ask yourself, too. Learning to trust that God is here, He is in control, He has a plan for your life, His timing is perfect - these things will develop patience in your life.
Tips for developing patience:
- When you find yourself impatient - complaining, anxious, frustrated - stop and confess it to the Lord - it is sin, so let's call it what it is
- Choose to love others (love - you before me), patiently, selflessly putting their needs before your own
- Memorize Colossians 3:1-4 and in times of anxiety, stop, confess and quote - then practice setting your mind on things above
- Give yourself enough time - sometimes we set ourselves up for frustration because we are behind and then someone else's slowness becomes our problem
- Remember Jesus' patience towards you and towards humanity in general (II Peter 3:9)
- Remember, choosing patience is a gospel moment in your life - your motivation is not to "get through it" but to become more like Jesus through it - He has not left you alone, but has given you the Holy Spirit to accomplish this