Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Season of Patience

"A Mystical Moment" 

Yesterday someone excitedly told me, I just can’t wait for Christmas. It seems to me as if lots of people nowadays just can’t wait. They can’t wait for the next big holiday, they can’t wait to get the new house or the new job, they can’t wait for school to be finished. The problem is, of course, that when the next big thing finally comes along it very often does not live up to our “great expectations,” and so people often feel “let down.” And then of course, it’s time to think about the next big thing for which we just can’t wait.

Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until my later years in life that I finally began to have a clue about what waiting patiently means, and to be honest, I never quite understood why patience was such a highly-prized virtue.

Why would sitting around and doing nothing while waiting for the next thing to happen be such a positive trait?  Patiently waiting in a doctor’s office, waiting for the document to print, waiting at a signal light, patiently waiting for the expected phone call or waiting for Christmas to come, all this waiting stuff seemed like a real burden to me. I considered patience to be a necessary evil-if you had to wait for something to happen, you might as well do it patiently.

Over the years I have come to a very new understanding of what patience means and why it is such an important discipline on any spiritual path. I have come to realize that patience has nothing to do with waiting for the future to happen. Patience is a spiritual discipline that keeps us focused in the moment, in the here and now. Patience is another word for practicing mindfulness.

Many people treat these days before Christmas as a frenetic time of preparation.  For many it’s a season in which they just can’t wait for Christmas. I actually this this is a perfect season for practicing patience- a wonderful season for intentionally being more mindful in our daily lives.

There is a story that comes from the Sayings of the 4th century Christian Desert Monks – it seems perfect for this season of patience:

A young monk came to his wise old teacher
asking him what he should do to grow in the spiritual life-
what is the next step he should take on his path?
The wise old teacher told his young student to go back to his room and sit patiently:
‘Go sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.’

Priest and author, Henri Nouwen, once offered a very similar piece of wisdom:

A waiting person is a patient person.
The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are
and live the situation to the full
in the belief that something hidden there
will manifest itself in the moment.

These busy, stressful days of Christmas preparation and frenetic holiday celebrations are ideal occasions to take a few steps back from it all and to do nothing but sit patiently—open and eager to embrace the revelation hidden in every moment. This is a great time of year to take the old monk’s advice:

Go sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.

Many centuries ago Saint Augustine said:

Patience is the companion of wisdom.

I say Amen to that.

No comments:

Post a Comment