Patience: Virtue well worth learning

Karl Terry: Freedom Newspapers

How long does it take to learn a lesson?
Sometimes it takes quite a few years.

The lesson for me this past week was in patience — something I’ve handled well at times and not so well at other times.

I’ve trained college interns all summer long at the newspaper and this week I started training a new page layout person. The interns have been bright and good to have around and the new layout person is learning fast, but training can use up your patience fast.

I went to the funeral of my grandmother’s second husband Wednesday. He was 97 and the service was a celebration of a life well-lived.
My grandmother was a quick-moving spry lady, who was always in motion. James was in slow motion.

The two people couldn’t have been different in so many ways but they evidently found a patience with each other’s ways late in both of their lives and had quite a few good years together before they were parted by my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s.

Anytime grandmother and James came to Sunday dinner at my folks’ house, my dad somehow felt obligated to allow James to offer the prayer before the meal. Real bad news if you were hungry. He talked slow, had a lot to say to the Lord and paused to think carefully through what he was saying. In conversation with his fellow man he spoke the same way.

On Wednesday I had opted to wait until pretty late to get started, and on the way out to the funeral in Dora I found myself impatiently passing a slow-moving car in the double-yellow of the construction zone. No big deal, I notice, as I roar past, it’s just my cousin, driving his mom and dad out to the funeral.

My lesson in patience gave me the first nudge of the day a couple of miles down the road, as I’m stopped by a construction flagger to wait on a pilot car. My cousin pulled up behind me a few minutes later, I’m sure he was grinning.

We all made the funeral with plenty of time to spare, despite waiting what seemed an eternity in the construction zone line.

A preacher in the immediate family, who officiated the funeral, gave the service a relaxed and personal feel. But it was the words of one of the deceased man’s nephews, a plain-spoken farmer and rancher, like his uncle, that struck home with me.

He told the crowd that he had never met any other person as uncontrolled by time as his uncle. He said James’ slow-spoken, deliberate ways were very likely God’s way of teaching us all patience. It brought laughter across the little church when he said it, but after a few moments of reflection the words started to burn. Everyone who knew him had been impatient with the man at some time or another, even if only for a minute. But everyone in that room had also been touched by the soft ways and love he dispensed to everyone and everything in his life.

Maybe the lesson will finally sink in for me. I need to be more patient toward my loving wife, and understand our priorities and needs aren’t always going to be exactly the same. I also need to remember not to be impatient with those I work with, the waitress who serves me my lunch, the teller at the bank, the customer on the phone and the traffic in front of me.

Most of all I need to apply more patience in my spiritual life. Things are never going to happen on my schedule — they’ll always happen on God’s schedule because we’re traveling through his construction zone.