I happened upon a really mind boggling idea the other day. Those characteristics I want to have in my own life – the really good ones like patience and kindness and gentleness? Those things take practice.
Did it smack you in the face like it did me? It was one of those realizations that took me totally by surprise. What?! I have to be intentional about this stuff? I always want to be better in these areas, and often I pray and pray that God would work those things into my life, but then I just wait around to magically be better at them. Kind of like I’m currently waiting around for that huge pile of laundry on my couch to magically fold itself. I am so far waiting without much success.
I am, deep down, not a very patient person. I tend to be short in my responses when I feel annoyed. I can be sharp and rough and lack every kind of grace. But I hate that about myself. I want to be like Jesus, who was full of grace and gentleness, kindness and patience. I want freedom from my tendency to treat those around me as less-than. But freedom never comes without hard work. It’s not a wonderful mantra I just happen to achieve because my culture values it. If I want something in my life, I have to grab hold of it and ride that bucking bronco through the rough and the easy, all the way until I have that value worked into the core of who I am. And I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that whenever someone rides a bucking bronco, they get thrown and have to get back up. They have to practice before they can achieve.
So here are a few ways I’m practicing patience in my own life:
Making coffee with Micah:
You may not know this about me, but there are few material things more treasured in my daily life than my coffee. It is God’s blessing to my day. Micah has picked up on this, and he really loves making it for me. But oh! How hard it is to watch him scoop the grounds, spilling half on the counter and then another good amount into the basket before ever getting it into the filter! How hard it is to not snatch the measuring spoon out of his hands so I can ensure I have a good cup of coffee to get me through the morning! So I’m practicing deep breathing along with my patience. Every morning I let him help me because he so loves to help me. He is so happy when he makes me coffee and I drink it. That’s what really matters. I just tell myself, I can always make a new pot if this one is too gritty.
I may as well admit, I am not one for messy crafts. And for some reason, painting in particular causes my perfectionism to flip out. Just watching the colors mix, the brush bristles get all bent out of shape, the water turn all horrible shades of brown…it makes me shudder! But Micah loves painting more than any other craft. I genuinely can’t last through a paint session without some kind of agitation, so I’m starting slow here. We compromise at bathtub painting. As long as he doesn’t get it on me, I let him do whatever he wants with it. Then we wash it down with the shower head!
I’ve written about this before, but Norah loves playing in the dirt more than with almost anything else. I could give away all her toys if I let her play in the dirt every day instead. I am not nearly so crazy about that dirt as she is, especially because she likes to rub it in her hair and pour it down her shirt. Oh, and eat it. Aside from the eating (which ends playing dirt immediately), I practice patience by letting her revel in her play land. Yes, I let her pour it in her hair and down her shirt because, in reality, it’s not hurting anything.
When I practice patience in these, among other, areas, not only do I allow my kids to experience freedom of expression, but I experience freedom from impatience. I experience the freedom from control and annoyance. Sure, it may be difficult to keep my frustration at bay, but when I do, I get to have the attitude that I want my kids to remember me having, instead of the one that I pray God’s grace will wipe from their memories. And as long as it really doesn’t matter how something is done, allowing them to do these things without my impatient, unkind, or ungentle interjections, gives us all the freedom to appreciate our differences.
p.s. I also sometimes practice patience by driving behind slow people. This probably officially puts me in the crazy-lady category, but I do have less road rage now.