Tag Archives: patience

Count to 10

As a child, I was restless and anxious, always looking ahead, anticipating what was to come, but wanting it now. And the repeated chorus that I heard from adults including my parents was, “Be patient.”

Patience became the centerpiece of my prayers throughout childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. I was told frequently to “count to 10” before saying something or acting. And as the joke goes, I counted “10.”

Leaders who practice patience have an edge over those of us who want to naturally rush ahead without pausing. The priest who hired me away from Chicago to Washington, DC, taught me a lesson about patience that we should remember as we look about us in our own personal as well as public “chaos.”

During my first week on the job, we were at the conference that I was to eventually manage, and he was introducing me to the leaders of the organization with whom I would be working. I met board members and icons in the field, and then he “tried” to introduce me to a long-standing leader from Iowa.

Before he could finish the sentence, “I’d like to introduce you to . . .,” I said, “You can’t.” And we both paused.

He had three options at this point. One was to plow ahead anyway. (How often have you done that? I have, mostly because I’m more concerned with what I need to get done, and not listening to the other person or paying attention to the situation.)

Two was to ask me questions. Which he didn’t do.

Three was to wait. Which he did.

I think he recognized–because he was paying attention–that there was something more than a simple introduction taking place. And he had the patience to let it play out. Which it did.

(The reason he couldn’t introduce this person to me is that we had known each other since I was a child. We just hadn’t seen each other in a very long time.)

As I look around me, the question I keep asking myself is this: How different would things be if our leaders had more patience, waited a little longer, and let things play out? How well do you cultivate the practices of listening and paying attention to the situation you are in before reacting?

Holy Patience

You know that swell of emotion that comes when you are anticipating something tremendous, something that is right . . . over . . . there? You can feel your body physically reaching out to grab that something that is almost, but not quite within your reach.

It washed over me while we watched the Chicago Cubs almost lose the World Series, then become the team they had been throughout the season and win.

More recently, I was following a series of Facebook posts, detailing how a friend was waiting for the birth of his daughter–they had the date, but it just couldn’t come fast enough, and then it was . . . HERE!

Do you remember a number of years ago when the vestments and colors for Advent were blue and rose? Our pastor noted that the blue was a midnight blue, the deepest blue of the darkest part of night, the blue that slowly gives way to the first rosy hues of sunrise, the color we use on Gaudate Sunday.

Symbolically, I think midnight blue ushers in the story of Incarnation better than our traditional penitential purple. (Yes, I am fully aware of the liturgical guidelines, so please, no critiques.)

We know that Advent is a time of waiting and preparing. This week’s readings couldn’t be more explicit about that. But this waiting has a rhythm and time to it like midnight to sunrise. We know that we must patiently live through each 60 second minute, each 60 minute hour, until the Son arrives to bring light to the world.

We can’t shorten it. We can try to ignore it, but it is still there, surrounding us. We can’t change it. We can only live patiently into it.

Speaking as a one who would willingly confess to having a lack of patience overall, the deep blue midnight of Advent brings consolation and gives me pause. It heightens my senses and makes me aware of everyone and everything around me. It begs me to find a place of silence and calm so that I am able to drink in all that happens when the night recedes and day arrives.

Patience comes when we find a settled place from which to anticipate, reach out, wait. In these last days of Advent, find a seat where you can sit with the darkest midnight and await the brightest dawn of Christmas.

It came upon a midnight clear,
That glorious song of old . . .