Presence, patience, and peace. This pithy little alliteration has become a mantra for my spiritual formation.
I have already written on presence, and I will be writing on peace in the third part of this mini-series, but I believe patience is the essential glue that holds those two together.
Patience gets a bad rap. For most people, "you have to be patient" is just a trite phrase to shame or (supposedly) encourage those who have to endure a challenging situation. We can devalue it, such as associating patience with waiting in line at the DMV. But we also devalue it when we make patience into nothing more than idle waiting until you get what you need. It is so much more than that.
Patience means choosing to forgive the present moment just for being what it is.
Patience means allowing things to come and go without grasping or clenching your fists.
Patience means seeing that healing and growth are processes, not light-switches.
Patience means letting the future be the future.
Patience means knowing that the future wouldn't be the future if we already had it.
Patience means recognizing that the future is determined by our actions today.
I saw a quote recently that made me wince: "The secret of patience is to do something else in the meantime." Patience is so much more than loitering. Patience is an action in and of itself.
"We know that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope." Romans 5:2-4
I think the perseverance in this verse is a better interpretation of patience. And like that perseverance, patience is teleological, that is, it has a telos, a goal, an "end," in and of itself, and that goal is not just getting what we want. The telos of patience is simple yet profound: patience is formative - for our souls, our spirits, our character, and ultimately, our hope.
Patience is what happens to us when we intentionally practice presence. And patience, in return, circles back and allows us to be more fully present. And eventually, the by-product of patience and presence is peace.