when you’re finding it hard to be patient

When we pour pancake batter into a griddle, they shape up like battered, misshapen hearts that sizzle and pop.

A little one looms dangerously close to heat.

A boy anxiously slops more batter. A lanky one flips prematurely, batter oozing, dripping. The sensitive child bursts into tears that the hearts are all smeared, the rings mashed. Oldest, with egg poised to crack, asks if I want more?

More? More? It’s all a bit too much. I sense a loudness, akin to a pleading howl, surging close to my lips.

The Spirit soothes, strokes the frayed edges: “Love is patient.





Love is patient?

Why is patience the first qualifier in the biblical “love chapter” describing the characteristics of love?

I mean, why not first, “Love is gentle,” or “Love is tender?” Or, better yet (to my feeble mind), “Love is a flash of divine revelation, a supernatural infusing of the spirit of God.” Yes, all that.

But the inspired Words says that the foundation of love is first this: patience.

How can I be patient in the tipsiness of this domestic chaos?

How can I be patient in the pain of now?

When vocal cords pitch screams, when tears brim and fall, when the clock keeps ticking steadily ahead and we just keep sputtering, stumbling along?

Deep breathe.

And it strikes me, an epiphany over the fry of bubbling pancakes, “Love is only patient if it’s first grateful for what is.

When I am not patient?  My failure to love is first a failure to be grateful for who people are right now.

And my impatience is a result of my unthankfulness — I’m impatient for the children to be someone different, for the cashier to hurry up, for this to get done right now.

The more dissatisfied I am in this moment, the more discontented I am with who they are, with what is happening —  the harder it becomes to be patient, to be loving.

Patient people dare to gratefully accept people where they are. Grateful for who they are now, appreciative of works of art not yet finished, but still deeply loved.

Patient people dare to receive the present always as a present — grace.

Patient people dare to live only in the present. Because they know that is where God is.

Lack gratitude — then lack patience — then, ultimately, lack love. To be love-full, I’ll first need to be grateful.

It is true: I can love only when I am thankful for the now.

Henri Nouwen suggests that  “[t]he word patience means willingness to stay where we are and live out the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”

In every moment I want to escape, some hidden gift hides, if I will wait patiently and dare to live to fully into that moment.

Deep breathe. Love is patient.

I can smile here — because really — there are no emergencies.

Emergencies are wildfires, screeching sirens, and gaping wounds. In everyday life, we rarely experience emergencies.

As Simone Weil writes,  “Waiting patiently…is the foundation of the spiritual life.”

Really, what catastrophe will befall if we’re late? Or dinner is on the table 15 minutes after six? Or we have to look another 10 minutes for junior’s shoe?

No emergencies. Now is good.

Now is not an emergency to rip through, but a moment to embrace with gratitude.

Standing in the kitchen, I turn my head, and when I see the world slant, hidden gift reveals themselves.

The kid leaning over the griddle? That curiosity endears, lights, impassions.  Here, let’s  lift you away from that heat and let you see these frying cakes.

The sensitive child wailing? That tender heart is a unique gift. Why don’t we pour another batter heart again and mend yours too?

And there’s the way

the light shaft pools on the floor at child’s feet

little one’s nose curls up when she laughs

the nape of his neck when he bends to see

When the gifts are patiently unearthed from the day’s rubble, we build love. Love is what stabilizes chaos.

The kids crush in and I grin.

I think I get it, the order of love, the preeminence of patience — love is patient first. Because it first is grateful for what is.

The oldest flips pancakes, and a boy pours more batter, and the youngest pushes her chair in close to see —

how everything milky and buttery loops patient on the pan, all in these slow, interconnected rings.





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Every Wednesday, we Walk with Him, posting a spiritual practice that draws us nearer to His heart.

To read the entire series of spiritual practices

I have found this topic wrenchingly difficult to write about. Humility is timid. Write about it, talk about it, and it flees. But reflecting on it throughout the days of these past three weeks, has been a nourishment to the soul. Thank you for your grace…

For the next two weeks: The Practice of Love… We look forward to your thoughts, stories, ideas….

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