But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
~ Galatians 5:22-24
I think of all the fruits of the Spirit that Paul lists in Galatians 5, patience is the most unnatural to me; which is to say, it is the most important one for me to concentrate on. Because the rewards of patience — setting aside, for a second, that we are commanded to practice it by the Bible, and in no uncertain terms — are tremendous for anyone, and doubly so for those who are impatient by nature.
There is an old story about a young priest (I'm guessing they are Catholic, at least in the version I heard) who goes to his bishop and tells him that he is having problems being patient and wants to reform. The bishop kneels with him and begins to pray, “Heavenly Father, _________ tells me he does not face enough trials in his parish. Send him new tribulations, tomorrow morning and every morning. Test him . . .”
The young priest shyly looks up and, gently interrupting (thinking the old bishop may have a touch of senility) says, “It is patience I was hoping to find, specifically.” “And how do you think we learn patience?” the bishop answered.
Paul himself actually makes this correspondence, between enduring troubles and developing the virtue of patience: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience.” (Romans 5:3) James 1:2 says the exact same thing.
What exactly do we mean by patience? It is a calm endurance based on the certain knowledge that God is in control, a feeling of peace even during hardship that can come only when we trust God to bring all things to their proper conclusion. It is a realization that we are the actors, not the director.
And what are the fruits of its opposite, impatience? Picture a traffic jam during rush hour, with people blowing their horns, slamming the steering wheel, yelling at each other. Their blood pressure rises. Their adrenaline uses up their energy. The only fruit of their impatience is to make the situation, and indeed their life, even more miserable, for themselves and for everyone else, as well.
Most of us could use a little more patience; we'd be a lot better off if we worked on developing it. It's worth thinking about.
Lord God, grant me the gift of patience. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer