Most nights when it’s not too cold or rainy, our family of three walks down to the shore nearby our home.
Sitting on the rocks or wading in the water and letting the cool breeze brush over our shoulders is my new favorite way to end a hot summer day. At first, my two-year-old son would sit in the wagon or stroller while my husband pulled him along at our pace.
But after a few trips, he decided he was ready to toddle alongside mommy and daddy. My husband and I smiled at his independence and how “quickly” his little feet could pass one in front of the other.
We congratulated him on carefully picking his way down a hill and climbing the other side of it. We taught him to look both ways before crossing the road or pathway. But when the excitement of independence wore off, his steps weren’t so quick anymore.
He was ready to take his time. Sometimes he stopped to point at flowers, other times he stopped to examine rocks and throw them in the ditch, and other times he stopped just for the sake of stopping.
During one of these walks, Levi stopped only a couple of minutes from the shore. I could see the dock. I could hear the waves lapping against the rocks. We were sheltered from the wind by the trees, but the sun still pressed down on us.
Pregnant, hot, tired, and longing to simply sit and feel the cool air, I claimed my right to complain. “Levi, move along, why must you walk so slowly? We’re so close!”
And he took a few steps—then he stopped again to inspect a leaf. Heat, not from the sun but from my chest, rose to my face. I grumbled to my husband.
I told him to scoop our son up (despite his flailing and protests) and simply get us to the shore. I walked past them and made my way to the shore to plop myself down and get the refreshment I deserved.
I watched them make their way down to the water, trying to relax the scowl on my face. As the cool breeze blew away my irritation, I thought about the many times that day I had told my son to be patient with me.
Be patient while mommy finishes the dishes. Be patient while mommy finishes the grocery list. Be patient while mommy gets your food ready. Be patient while mommy tries to fix your toy.
“Be patient” has been our daily lesson lately.
With newborn twins on the way, I especially wanted him to learn that it’s OK to wait a few minutes before his requests were answered. I wanted to teach him how to wait well and not always expect an immediate result.
And yet, at twenty-three years old, patience is a lesson I’m still learning. I grow impatient with my son’s slow walking speed. I grumble when a recipe takes longer than the book claims.
I flip to the last pages of a novel to find out what the ending will be before I finish. I complain when traffic isn’t moving as quickly as I would like. I cried the day before I went into labor with my son because I didn’t want to be pregnant any longer.
I grow impatient with sanctification—both mine and for those around me. I get frustrated with God’s timing—how long, oh Lord? I often ask.
I’m annoyed by the length of time it’s taking my son to learn patience. Yes, I’m far from the level of patience I expect my son to be. Like most lessons, to teach patience is also to exemplify patience.
While I wish I could simply take a patient pill to become more patient, God works in other ways.
A wise older man explained this to me after a different long and hot summer day when I was fifteen.
“Did you pray for patience today?” he asked me. It was 2:00 a.m., and I was sitting on the staff room couch of my local summer camp with a homesick camper. I didn’t understand the question, so he proceeded to explain, “God doesn’t just fill you up with patience, he gives you an opportunity to learn it.”
Whenever I see an area in which I need to grow, I pray with the hope that God will simply grow my heart in the way I’ve requested.
While it’s true God works mighty changes in our hearts and minds, he often does so in tandem with discipline. He sanctifies us. And his sanctification isn’t in our immediate timing but his, which he has laid out in perfect wisdom and love.
Part of how I need to be exemplifying patience to my son is not only in being patient with his slow toddling but also with his slow learning. I need to show him grace when he gets it wrong and continue working alongside him as he learns what patience means and looks like.
I need to show him the same patience Christ has shown me.
How patient is Christ with me?
He spent years working on my heart while I was a works-bent sinner determined to prove my worth to God. He reminds my forgetful heart of the gospel in my suffering. He remains faithful even when I battle the same sins over and over again.
He continues to call me his own when I (in my ingratitude) show no patience to others. And even more so, I need to tell my son of this great God who is patient with him too, even when mommy isn’t, and how he can teach us both to be patient like his Son.
As I walk with my son along the beaten path to the shore, I try to remind myself of patience. Of how many times I’ve asked him to be patient with me in my slowness to respond. Of how thankful I should be for God’s patience graciously shown to me.
I try to think of Christ, who patiently deals with me as I need reminding of the gospel over and over again. And when I’m impatient with my little boy, I likewise again remind myself of God’s patience in sanctifying both of our impatient and sinful hearts.
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