“Patience is a Virtue”

Just the other day, I was reminded of the old saying: “Patience is a Virtue” when in conversation with an old gardener.  Spring is very much a time for gardens and gardeners – hard work, I know, but very rewarding when the garden comes into full bloom during the summer months.   It does not happen immediately, at once, or within hours or days. No! One must wait and bide one’s time, to let God’s creations –  the bulbs, the plants, the trees, do their work.  The old man hit the ‘nail on the head’ when he came out with: “It cawn’t ‘appen aw’ at once – tha mun wait fer’t God to get busy – an ‘e teks ‘is time o’er things like this!”

Patience, a gift of the Holy Spirit, (or more properly defined as one of the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit) does not get much a of a mention these days.  It never hits the headlines – does not figure in the news, and we, young and old, often fail to understand its true value.  Conversely, I think, in many cases, we also fail to fully understand the consequences of  our lack of it.  Impatience at work, and around the home often results in rushing and a job poorly finished – accidents in the home – and we all know what can happen on the roads when impatience takes over – when drivers become impatient.  The results can be catastrophic – even fatal!

I think God takes his time over many things, and in many instances we do not understand God’s timing.  We pray to Him and ask for things to help us in our lives.  Sometimes, it may be that we ask for things that, in the long run, are not good for us, and God will never give us things that are going to be detrimental or harmful.  But, what about things that, perhaps, will be good for us?  We may be aware of this when we ask – but are we prepared to wait?  When we do not receive the ‘favour’ from God straightaway, could it be that we then lose patience with Him and take the view that God is turning a ‘deaf ear’ to our prayers.  I believe that God hears every prayer we ever make – and all of them are answered – but not always in the way we may expect.  God will listen and then do what is best for us – he loves us with a love, so great, we cannot comprehend its magnitude.  Similarly, we do not always understand His ways – our impatience impedes, and ‘clouds’, our understanding.

God is infinitely patient with us.  When we go our own way and offend his great love – when self and selfish desires get between the Father in heaven and we children on earth – this puts us at odds with Him.  Surely, this provides the basis for most of our sinfulness, but the Father in his infinite wisdom and mercy has given us the way back to him.  Knowing what would happen once human beings were given free will, God gave us his Son as a way of getting back on the right ‘track’ – a way for disorientated children, to say ‘sorry’, receive forgiveness for our sins and re-establish that great joy which comes of being close to Him.  God knows all this – far better than we do – and he is patient with us when we stray from his side.  He knows we will return – and He is prepared to wait.

Given God’s patience with us, I think it behoves us also to be patient – patient with ourselves and with others.  All too often these days, we are in such a hurry that we can’t wait to get this or do that – can’t wait for that special occasion – a day out, a meal or that holiday we booked months ago.  The same happens when we see something we feel we need – that new computer,  music player, tv, or piece of furniture, and are desperate to have it today – not tomorrow, or even next week, and so we use the credit card – borrow in order to buy – then find ourselves ‘up to the eyes’ in debt before the ‘penny has dropped’.  How much more pleasurable it would be, to wait until we had the money to hand, and then to buy – with no debt to worry about.  Surely, our patience would be rewarded with much greater satisfaction and pleasure.

And so it is with others – if we are impatient with them – our relationships suffer and love goes ‘up the chimney like a puff of smoke’.  If family member or neighbour make mistakes and upset us – we should be forgiving and patient with them and, together, we  would then achieve much more.  This is especially so with children.  Patience and kindness – love in other words – is so important with others and where children are concerned, and everything that is given, in this patient and kind way, will be repaid a hundredfold.

It may be that patience comes easier to the person as he or she gets older – but even then it’s not always easy – things that are worthwhile never are!  The younger one happens to be, the more immediate appears to be one’s wants and needs, and though patience is certainly not the sole preserve of the elderly, I think older people will find it easier to realise that ‘Rome was not built in a day’ and will be prepared to wait a little time in order to achieve that special thing – that special time – that special feeling.  Children, especially when they are used to getting the things they want, in quick time, will no doubt find it hard to wait a little time for their desirables.  Even the elderly may find this virtue difficult – especially if they are more than ever aware of the fact that, for them, time is short.  It may be that time will not always be on their side!

So, although ‘Patience is a Virtue’, as the saying goes, it may be that for the majority of us, the realisation of its quality may not always be achieved easily.  Moreover, the difficulties associated with it may well be magnified for those of us who live in the well-developed, prosperous countries of the world.  Almost certainly, we will have been ‘spoiled’ to some extent – used to getting what we want, when we want.  People who live in the ‘Third World’ could, perhaps, teach us something about patience.  Materially, they have very little, and may have to wait, and wait, and wait – even for their next meal.

Perhaps we should all take a ‘leaf’ out of our gardener’s ‘book’ – he has to have patience – his garden does not grow according to his, or any other human time scale.