The second reading for this week (James 5:7-10) exhorts us to be patient in waiting for the coming of the Lord. James urges us to look at the example of farmers who must wait for the fruit of the earth. This is a good example. Some things, such as the growing of food, or a mother waiting for her child to be born, simply cannot be rushed. This does not negate the fact that it is hard to be patient. It is a lifelong challenge and God does provide us with many opportunities to practice it.
This time of year is especially hard on a child’s patience. I remember being a child. Advent moved at a snail’s pace. The lighting of that pink candle on the third week meant so much. We were getting close. Christmas was coming! As an adult, the opposite is often true. Advent passes by in a blur of activity and the lighting of the pink candle is more likely to induce panic than joy. Christmas is right around the corner. There is so much left to do!
Parenting, on the other hand, is a daily lesson in patience. Looking back, children grow up so quickly. Where did all those years go? Most days, however, dealing with the struggles and crises of the moment, it seems as if progress is being made ever so slowly. We want our children to be out of whatever difficult phase they are going through, even if we know that it is a learning experience for them and for us. Growing up takes place one small step at a time. Being a good parent means being patient with both our children and ourselves.
It takes patience to pray. We live in a world filled with instant gratification. We can watch what we want when we want. We can access any information we need to know at the touch of a button. We can talk to friends via email or text message all the time. We take this instant world for granted, and we sometimes carry that over into our relationship with God. “Dear God, these are my problems and I would like them fixed right now. Thank you. Amen.”
And how does God respond? “Yes, I hear you and I know your needs, but it will take some time to get everything sorted out. There are lessons here that you need to learn. There is a reason for it all. I have plans for you that you can’t even imagine.” All of which means that we are going to spend some quality time waiting. Like the plants growing or the child forming in the womb, we are developing and changing and growing. It’s a process. We need to be patient with God and with ourselves, even when it is very hard.
By the same token, we need to have patience with our fellow brothers and sisters in the trenches. Going back to that letter of James, he tells us, “Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, that you may not be judged.” It can be so easy to see the faults in other people. If only she would do a, b, and c, her problems would all be solved. It is so simple. Why can’t she see it? That would be because she needs to grow, too, and she is traveling her own difficult road. None of us is perfect. We are all merely travelers on the journey, waiting for that second coming of the Lord when everything will be made right.
Amid this busy Advent season, may we take the time to pray for patience with God, ourselves, our children, and all we come in contact with.