I have this friend from Bible college who is sweet and cute and an all-around godly woman. I can't really picture her in a fit of impatience that wouldn't in some way still leave you feeling that the encounter was generally pleasant. One day, I don't remember the occasion, she exclaimed in a playful admonition, "Patience: It's a fruit!" After so many years I can't remember if that was something she regularly said or if it was a single moment of witty wisdom, but it has stuck with me ever since. Quite often when I am pondering patience, or my lack of it, or if I have encountered a particularly frustrating moment, her clear, bubbly voice interjects..."Patience: It's a fruit!"
As far as the fruits of the Spirit go, patience is not at the top of the list of things I'm particularly good at. I told Andrew the other day in a fit of frustration towards him (um, yeah, we don't have a perfect marriage, but don't tell anyone :)) "You have squeezed my patience fruit dry today!" But the truth is that I let a lot of people and too many situations juice my patience fruit.
Recently when I was checking out at Sam's Club with Andrew we slipped into what appeared to be the shortest line feeling the sort of secret victory you feel when you find these sorts of lines, but, appearances are deceiving and we were there for awhile. Somehow I have a knack for choosing the checkout lines that take the longest amount of time with the fewest people! I've come to the conclusion that it must be one of the many tactics that God is using to work out patience in my life...it always frustrates me (I'm obviously not taking the fast-track to sanctification).
Some other areas in which my patience fruit is put through the wringer: dealing with sales people and some city employees, when things don't go according to my plans, any situation that does not make logical sense, when people walk slowly in front of me or stop in the middle of the isle at the store and block the path, people who drive like they are dumb or drunk, when I have to repeat myself, anything that wastes my time, people who talk and talk and say nothing meaningful, Subway workers who try to get ahead on sandwiches and ask you what you want on your sandwich before you even reach their section...this list goes on.
Today I gave a friend some advice and before I knew it words tumbled out of my mouth, "It's like if I were to ask God to give me patience towards someone. I can't just expect that He's going to give me warm fuzzy feelings all of a sudden. He's probably going to give me a situation that will require patience of me and see if I'm really serious about my desire for it." And while I was saying those words I thought "Dang it! Now I have to work on my patience so I'm not a hypocrite!!" Note to self: never make illustrations meant to gently rebuke someone with one of your areas of weakness.
If I'm honest with myself, when I'm impatient I'm telling someone that I am most important, my time is more valuable than their's, or I have all the answers. That's not really what I want to tell people (usually).
So I'm working on it, but be kind--my patience looks a little like a prune right now. But, I'm hoping that one day it will be big and plump and juicy and even if I encounter a particularly vexing sales person who is manning a checkout line that is taking forever and who is not paying attention so I have to repeat myself over and over but they are really just talking and talking and saying nothing of meaning, I will just smile a peaceful sort of smile that remembers the days when I was less mature and more impatient.
Patience: It's a Fruit!