By Darci Irwin - Director of Rescue Teams A few years ago I learned something that revolutionized my understanding of breathing. Did you know the body is designed to breathe 6-8 breaths per minute but the common person breathes upwards of 20 or more? We pant through life, and I think it’s because we’re exhausted, distracted, and aren’t practiced at being still.
So, to begin, I’d like to invite you to take a few moments…just…to…breathe.
As you continue reading, I encourage you to pay attention to your breath the entire time you read this post. Notice what it feels like in your body to breathe in and exhale deeply.
Thinking About Patience
As you breathe, think about this question. If you were to rate your patience level, what would you give yourself if 1 is painfully impatient and 10 is extremely patient? Remember, wherever you are is where you are and there is no shame. Honestly consider the strength of your patience muscles.
Does your number shift when I mention these situations or people? Coworkers, grocery store checkout lines, siblings, traffic, parents, this moment, the government, health issues, misunderstandings, roommates, Christmas, payday, gum smackers, your spouse or the idea that you don’t yet have a spouse, your children or the idea that you don’t yet have children, the Internet, gaining or losing weight, finding a job or getting a promotion. And specific to your passion for orphans – social workers, adoption agencies, food distribution, language barriers, the pace of organizational movement, medical needs, the number of children who are and continue being abandoned…and I could go on and on.
Personally speaking, patience is a character trait that is being learned in my life, not innately inherited. Impatience, on the other hand, now that comes quite easy to me.
Some of my earliest memories of my dad include him telling me to “relax.” He said it so much that the older I got, all he’d need to do was say, “Hey Darc…” and I’d say, “I know, I know, r-e-l-a-x.” But it would be decades before I really knew how.
Impatience has been a word I’ve used to describe myself, even jokingly saying, “Oh I’m just impatient and want everything now.” The last few years, however, I’ve started taking patience and impatience seriously, extremely seriously, because I recognized that not only was my impatience shrinking me, it was also putting a wedge between me and others who felt the need to hurry around me.
So I got serious about patience, first with myself, because it’s only when I’m patient with myself that I can be patient with others.
As I’ve begun to learn the secrets of being still and waiting, my soul has found new breath, my heart has expanded, my pulse has slowed, and my mind has cleared. I hope the same for you as you journey on towards patience.
What is Patience?
So let’s think about patience.
Patience is the Greek word (hoop-om-onay) hypomone which is a compound word made up of two other words:
- hypo (a preposition meaning 'under')
- moneo (a verb meaning to 'remain' or 'abide')
Thus, the idea is to 'remain under' or 'abide under' difficult circumstances - as when it is not possible to escape or avoid them.
< How is your breathing? >
As you continue contemplating your patience number, consider this story by Sue Monk Kidd:
“I was a typical quickaholic. We are, I suspect, one of the fastest growing populations around. …I traveled to St. Meinrad Archabbey for a retreat. One day after morning prayers, I walked to the edge of the pond and sat on the grass. I listened to the wind sigh over the water and tried to be still, to simply be there and wait in the moment. But almost instantly my inner chaos rose up. The need to keep moving, to act, to solve everything overpowered me. I got to my feet.
As I returned to the guest quarters, I noticed a monk, ski cap pulled over his ears, sitting perfectly still beneath a tree. There was such reverence in his silhouette, such tranquil sturdiness, that I paused to watch. He was the picture of waiting.
Later I sought him out. “I saw you today sitting beneath the tree – just sitting there so still. How is it that you can wait so patiently in the moment? I can’t seem to get used to the idea of doing nothing.”
He broke into a wonderful grin. “Well, there’s the problem right there, young lady. You’ve bought into the cultural myth that when you’re waiting you’re doing nothing.”
Then he took his hands and placed them on my shoulders, peered straight into my eyes and said, “I hope you’ll hear what I’m about to tell you. I hope you’ll hear it all the way down to your toes. When you’re waiting, you’re not doing nothing. You’re doing the most important something there is. You’re allowing your soul to grow up. If you can’t be still and wait, you can’t become what God created you to be.”
Western culture is not a breeding ground for patient waiters. We actively resist anything that is slow, so much so that I believe our very souls are in anguish, exhausted by our hurried attempts at speeding through life.
Our fast food perspective has increased our speed and has decreased our awareness. In the book “When Helping Hurts,” the authors educate us how different parts of the world view time. The monochronic view sees time as a limited and valuable resources, where time can be lost or saved. Good stewardship of time means getting the most out of every. single. minute. Contrast this to the polychronic view, the view you are about to step into, that says, “There is always more time.” My encouragement is to enjoy this view of time, as counter cultural as it may be, and give your soul the expansion it so desires by gifting it with renewed attention and peace.
Can you imagine yourself living a life that is somewhere between these views of time? Honoring schedule and routine, yet holding loosely to your agenda? How would your life change if you slowed down? Who might that impact? What might look different?
< How is your breathing? >
Waiting in Scripture
The Bible is rich with language urging us to wait. “In you I wait all day long.” “My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning.” “Wait continually for your God.” “If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
It is true that God enters into the experience of those who wait.
And isn’t that what long to encounter? A full experience with God? Because of this, today I urge you to hit the ground…listening. I encourage you to slow your pace…..to enact all five of your senses…..to pause and really look in the faces of people you encounter today…..to take deep inhalations and exhalations when anxiety creeps up on you…..to be fully present in each moment…..and, to give yourself grace when you notice you’re rushing, hurrying, or irritated. Because it will happen. And when it does, may you gracefully invite your attention to slow down, forgive yourself, and move on.
Yet there’s this myth that asking God to help us learn patience means He’ll give us something really hard to endure. The more I get to know God, the more I realize He is not tight-fisted, condemning, and ready to shame us into growth. He is not eagerly sitting by waiting to smite us with some hardship so that we’ll finally learn our lesson. No, our God is a gentle God, not a patronizing, manipulative, condescending God. Maybe what people have experienced when they pray for patience is simply an opening of awareness to everything around them that challenges patience. Maybe God is gently peeling off the layers and allowing us to see the hundreds of reasons we can apply patience every single day. Maybe the reasons to be impatient were there all along and now we are just aware of them.
And I wonder, for what might God be waiting? What might he patiently be waiting for you to notice? To respond to? Your mind will clear when you wait, and you will know the right next thing to do. There really is a reason God told us to be still and know that He is.
So today, here is what I know about patience: It comes a little at a time, so may you be patient with patience. My blessing as you go is to notice when you are in the grips of quickaholism. In these moments, may you give greater attention to your breath that reminds you of God’s presence within you. May you be gentle with yourself, thereby increasing your gentleness with others. May your patience number increase over time. And may you learn patience in increasingly new ways as God continues to write your story.