Lifestyle

The melodious sounds of patience

Can you recall the song lyrics of your youth? Of course, you can! Those were most likely the days when you enjoyed a simpler, more focused life. You were probably captivated by the demands of school, clothes, sports practices, a part-time job, music, and who was going out with whom. When you got your driver’s license you probably loved to turn up the tunes, surrounded by music that seeped into your soul because you immersed yourself in the sound.

As the years roll along I find myself more sensitive to sound and cautioning my kids to keep the volume on their iPods turned down to reasonable levels to keep their hearing intact, just as my parents did when music from my room vibrated the entire house. As a teenager I promised myself that I would not do this, for music seemed at its best when it surrounded me, blocking out the rest of my senses. But today, after a busy day attending meetings, short order cooking and ferrying kids hither and yon, most everything loud is jarring and nearly overwhelming. When noise tests my patience, especially in the car, I’ve been known to make use of the volume control on my steering wheel which I carefully and subtly turn down so most will not notice I’m slowly working the volume down.

Entice me with music from the sixties and seventies, however —- the music of my youth —- and even I experience a nearly uncontrollable urge to let it rip. I turn that volume up and dance a little, completely humiliating my children but enjoying every silly minute! And what about those lyrics? Long-lost words spring up from nowhere with the slightest prompting from a few, familiar cords. Where these lyrics are stored I do not know, but they are in there. I may struggle to recall my own cell phone number, but those lyrics are stuck like glue.

It is now, as I traverse the roads of middle age, that I understand and honor the wisdom of my youth minister when he consistently pulled out his guitar and taught his rowdy band of teenagers through the use of praise and worship choruses. Many were verses found in the book of Psalms, set to simple melodies. Others were advice-filled phrases that even today rise out of me when life prompts them. One of my favorites goes like this:

Patience is a virtue, my son,

patience is a virtue

and don’t you forget it!

All things come together

for the righteous One,

patience is a virtue, my son.

Patience is the fourth of nine Fruits of the Spirit listed in the Bible, and I begin to hum this patience chorus each time I consider how I might be patient when life is causing me great feelings of impatience. It is a practical virtue and one I frequently observe in mature Christians. It is one of the surest signals that the Holy Spirit is active in a person’s life, for it is so frequently tested.

The longer I live the harder I work to wrap patience around my emotions, for it is a prized expression of faith. Patience is beautiful to witness, a powerful tool to create good, and a soothing gift to receive. And while it is okay to respond with impatience to such matters as racism, disrespect, gossip and lying, the notion of patience is for everyone, every day. Not a one of us can live a day without being asked by circumstance to model patience.

The surprising thing is this: patience is frequently portrayed in the media in a less than glowing light. Patient people often appear as dull, resigned, and passive. They are placed in victimizing situations. When we are presented with such images we naturally prefer the rogue — the dark, defiant one. It seems prudent to identify with the steamrollers among us who know what they want and press on, no matter the cost. After all, we infrequently see strong, successful people in a reactive mode characterized by patience. They are making it happen and asking others to react, instead.

Ultimately, patience is love in action and the kind of love that God asks us to model daily. And for the Christian, a moment — or a season! — wrapped in patience is an opportunity to model the profound Christian concept that God is in control and trustworthy. If we trust Him enough to act in obedience and choose patience, however hard it may be, God will work out the details beyond our reach. With practice and the influence of God’s spirit, it is possible to experience stress and anger and still be able to dig deep and react with patience.

Let’s sing a song of patience this week and see what beautiful results await us.

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