It had been a long day altogether. I rushed home on an already busy Thursday from my classroom. I’d known all day long my motivation to attend a late evening workshop on anything would not feel like a treat. The day’s one redemption was the fact that tomorrow is Friday. So I went into my phonebooth and transformed myself from 8th grade Science teacher to adult learner.
We sat through many wonderful stories from the night’s guest speaker. As we rode back home still contemplating all that had been carefully and skillfully delivered we each internalized the many things that had been pressing foremost on our minds throughout the day. Surprisingly one of those topics we landed upon was not so much about what had been expounded upon by the workshop speaker. Instead we found ourselves deep in conversation about how we access personal patience.
It came as a surprise to me that my dear friend had been turning over in his mind something quite different. He unexpectedly ventured, “I can’t seem to find the patience for the people I’m working with. I know it’s a patience problem.” And I did what we all do-try to problem solve or as I learned in one of my graduate courses, Design Thinking, iterate. I believe it is the human problem solving go to.
Whenever someone important in our lives brings us a problem we naturally gravitate towards this iteration process. So there we were in the car, me trying to iterate on how best to develop this much needed life skill when working with others. My friend said right off the bat, “Noooo, I’ve learned not to pray for patience.” I naturally wanted to not shut down the pathway of prayer to any problem so I countered, “Well maybe we shouldn’t pray to develop patience but perhaps we could pray for grace and thereby gain patience?” I mean it sounded pretty good to my ears but I could tell my friend was not so convinced this was the solution.
Its so funny because I’ve heard that same response time and time again-don’t pray for patience. Why? Because for most people they believe life will give a new set of experiences that develops that skill. I wish I could say we all left the car that night with the irrefutable answer on how to gain patience for others in our lives. I did walk away pondering just how does one gain patience?
You know for every circumstance in life we are desperately waiting on the in-between. The Gap. And I don’t mean the store. I mean the gap between starting a thing and ending it. The gap between not understanding something or someone and a full circle that leads you to understanding. Sometimes the gap is a particular hardship, a promotion, a birth of a new family member, or a good diagnosis. There’s the beginning, the middle and the end. The gap is the middle place where we all hang out impatiently or patiently. The gap is the place of peace or turmoil in the waiting. If it’s something we really want and want it in that moment, then inevitably our patience wears to shreds. We are often in turmoil while we wait.
Don’t we all wish we could turn back time and redo some of our most impatient moments. I wish we could go back to our younger selves and say, “Just be patient, its all going to work out as it should.” We can’t go backwards but we can amend forward.
Just about everyone is experiencing a gap moment in their lives. Quite transparently, I’m currently experiencing a career gap as I move from education to whatever will be next. I worry about how I’m going to explain this on my resume and interviews. I constantly oscillate between impatience and trust. However, I know deep down in my bones that something significant is taking place in this weird in-between. I can feel wrinkled places are being ironed smooth.
I’m realizing that next isn’t going to be so great unless my gap takes place. And I so want to fast forward with a life remote. I want to bypass all the awkward conversations I’m having with myself and others. I want to skip past all the uncertainty I feel about just how this will all make sense later. We are constantly living in the gap. In fact, our entire lives are the gap.
There is purpose in the middle and that being so makes it necessary for us to develop patience. I believe patience is no longer a choice but a necessity. If we are to do the the gap, middle, the in-between well then we must value the skills that allow us to do it. Our mindset shifting from patience being a luxury to patience being a necessary life skill needs to take place.
We have been so caught up in the how that we might overlook the why. The why is what might lead us and connect us to the how. If we can understand why we should be patient with our family, friends, co-workers or any other people in our lives then that changes the perspective altogether. If I understand and accept why I need to be patient through a hardship season in life then maybe I can allow the process to be what it is- a process.
So here’s what I can loop back around to my friend about our conversation on patience-start with the why. If we are going to be patient at all, we will need a why. This might take practice. Asking ourselves and even listing out reasons why we need to be patient might be the best place to start because maybe it isn’t all there yet but it could be eventually. We simply need to start our patience gap by affixing a beginning why.
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