Reflections

How patience has lost its virtue

As a new patron to a grocery store, I have realized that I have an incredible amount of power when I walk through the doors. And even more so when I get to the checkout line.

Any sign of impatience (glancing at my watch, scanning the other aisles), and out of nowhere, a new cashier’s light goes on.

Last week, after stocking my cart full, I tried hard to look as calm as possible. It was early on a Monday morning, and the store was quiet except for employees stocking the shelves with new products.

There was only one cashier line open, and only one woman ahead of me in line. I had several hours until I had to get to work and I was done with my errands.

I was in absolutely no rush, and it felt nice to stop and just be still for a minute.

But before I knew it, a cashier appeared out of nowhere, and I was rushed through the checkout. 

The customer service is nice but this experience reminded me of some alarming changes in our culture. We have been trained not to wait. We are engrained to believe that we deserve everything instantly. The art of patience is slowly fading not just from our vocabulary, but also from the fibres of our being.

Starbucks has just announced plans to trial an app to allow customers to order their coffee ahead of time. You can purchase your Tall, Non-Fat Latte With Caramel Drizzle at home, and it will be ready by the time you arrive. No waiting. No need to be patient in the long morning line for your jolt of caffeine. No need to truly interact with the human behind the counter, except to grab the cup of coffee and bolt for the door.

Other fast food chains are also moving in this direction. A way to make fast food even faster. Because aren’t we are entitled to instant service?

As patience becomes a lost art in our everyday life, it is easy to feel that patience isn’t needed in our faith life either.

This is the exact stuff that makes people leave the church, to turn away from God. We have all heard it before, or said ourselves: “I pray, but God never answers. So what’s the point?”

Because we live in a culture that enshrines instant gratification, we expect God to do the same.

The very heart of prayer is waiting. Being still. Listening patiently for God to answer. Patiently waiting sometimes for days, weeks, even years.

God’s plan is revealed in His own time.

I’ve found this to be so true in my own life. Praying for a failed relationship to work out, and it doesn’t. Praying to land a dream job that I don’t get.

In the moment, I feel anger and grief and frustration. But I know deep down that I need to trust. To be patient for God to reveal His plan.

And every single time, as I patiently wait for His answer, He responds. Many times it’s months and years later, but looking back, I can see His answers woven amongst my despair, how He used my rejection for His good.

Waiting is never easy. But it does bring us closer to God. And no matter how much our culture tells us that patience is something less than virtuous, trusting in God, in His plan to restore all things, is worth waiting for.

Photo (Flickr CC) by Alli.

Kona