“Patience is an extremely difficult discipline because precisely because it counteracts our natural instinct to flee or fight….It is the third way and the most difficult way. It calls for discipline because it goes against the grain of our impulses. Patience involves staying with it, living through it, listening carefully to what presents itself here and now….In short, patience is a willingness to be influenced even when this requires giving up control and entering into unknown territory.” ~ Nouwen, McNeill and Morrison
Time, waiting, distance, and the unknown seem to be recent themes of mine. I even already wrote about it in an earlier post. I don’t feel as though this is the type of waiting where the world seems to be rotating in slow motion, or where the present moment seems meaningless- more that I am aware that I miss a lot of present moments because I am too busy anticipating exciting things in the future. Even the title of my blog speaks volumes…
I want to talk a little bit about what I have learned about time and patience from the book Compassion. I really recommend that EVERYONE should read this book…you can order it here.
The authors argue that “patience is the discipline of compassion.” They explain how the words passion and patience are derived from the Latin word pati- which essentially means “suffering”- see, you learn something new everyday!
Understanding the root of the word makes the rest of their argument more clear- but first, they help the reader to overcome the notion that patience equals passiveness.
“…True patience is the opposite of a passive waiting in which we let things happen and allow others to make decisions. Patience means to enter actively into the thick of life and to fully bear the suffering within and around us. Patience is the capacity to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell as fully as possible the inner and outer events in our lives. It is to enter our lives with open eyes, ears, and hands so that we really know what is happening ” (emphasis mine).
This resonates with me because I am afraid that I am too busy anticipating, preparing, thinking, dreaming, worrying about what is next to really FULLY touch, see, smell, taste or hear anything in the present. I am worried that I am half-assing my present! This is promblematic if I ever hope to be compassionate- to “suffer with” people – or experience joy with people as well.
Essentially, impatience is saying, ” I don’t think that this moment, this situation, the here and the now, has any value, worth or meaning.” I can see how people can live their entire lives like that…I can see how I could live my entire life like that. Really, it is a “grass is greener” or “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” complex. And like most awful things in life, it’s cyclical- thinking that way can never lead to contentment.
I am more excited about “down the road” than I can even explain, but I need to remember that every step to getting there is essential….to getting there. “In the meantime” is all we really have and if today was all I had, I hope that I would see it as enough.
To not be fully present in whatever current situation you are in, is to shaft the people around you and the God who wants to use you to show others His love. It reminds me of people who are “half listeners”- you know the people that I am talking about…you talk and you can tell they are really only half listening to the things you are saying, regardless of the importance of your words or feelings. It’s annoying and insulting and maybe that is what we are like when we live one foot in the present and the other in the future…or the past, for that matter.
In conclusion, BE where you are- really BE there. Know that you will eventually get where you are going, and then you’ll be on your way somewhere else. Let’s not look back and wish that it all didn’t go by so fast. It’s cliche, but you REALLY only have one life, one shot- one today. Soak it all in so that you can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell the world around you. It’s necessary for compassion and whenever the present turns into the future- you’ll be all the more ready.