There’s patience … and then there’s patience.
You know what I mean. There exists a pseudo-patience, the kind that scrapes the surface and looks admirable to passers-by, but is inextricably intertwined with discontentment.
Then there is porch-swing patience.
Have you ever seen someone swaying back and forth on a porch swing in the cool of an evening who is not submerged in satisfaction and utter contentedness?
This is the patience I long to have, the type of patience I believe is honoring to God. The porch swing patience that stops to breathe in one’s surroundings and circumstances, to enjoy the view in the moment, to be grateful for the abundance of blessings showered all around.
But it doesn’t come easily. My heart is so steeped in selfishness and sinfulness that I want what I want, and I want it now.
The bottom line is, by not exercising patience for whatever it is I am waiting for, I am not being content with what God has given me now. It is very easy for me to become so consumed and obsessed with what I hope to have, what I hope to achieve, where I hope to go, that I fail to be grateful for what I already have.
I’ve realized the hard way that this kind of patience is required not only from hour to hour, but for the long haul as well. The Lord has been patiently reminding me that porch swing patience is needed in the short-term, the long-term, and ultimately, as we wait for eternity.
“Mom, can I have some water?”
“Sure, but you’ll have to wait a minute, I’m busy with something.”
“Now can I have some water?”
“I said ‘yes,’ but you’ll have to be patient, I’m still busy.”
“Can I have some water now?”
“Listen, you really need to ask God to help you be more – …”
“I know, I know … patient.”
This is a typical scenario in my home. Yet in my rebuke to my children, my own impatience is revealed. Why, oh why, is it so difficult to be patient? After all, it is one of the fruits of the Spirit, right?
And indeed, the Lord provides me with plenty of opportunities each day in which I can practice the fruit of patience –sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, waiting for a pot to boil, waiting for the kids to put on their pajamas so we can read the Bible before bed. Yet in each scenario, I heave an impatient sigh, longing to move on to the next thing on my “To-Do List.”
When will I learn to enjoy the moment? When will I stop to breathe in my surroundings, to watch the people on the street pass by as I sip lemonade on my porch swing?
I sometimes feel like Martha as she is described in Luke 10. In verse 38, we read that Jesus visited Martha and her sister Mary in their home. Mary chose to sit at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He said (vs. 39).
But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:39, 41-42)
Though the account is not necessarily meant to teach us about patience, Mary definitely understood the concept of a porch-swing mentality. She recognized what was most important, and she ignored the cares of the world to listen to her Lord. Yet Martha, on the other hand, was “worried and upset about many things.”
Does that sound familiar? In our quest to get what we want, and to get it now, it is easy to get bogged down by many things. Many things that seem to get in our way and cause impatience to rear its ugly head. Many things that blur our vision and prevent us from seeing clearly the blessings of the present reality.
Our family has been longing and trying to move from South Africa to the United States for the past few years. Time and time again, we run into roadblocks that prevent us from being able to leave when we had hoped. The calendar pages continue to flip over with no departure date in sight.
Deep down, I know with all my heart that if we are meant to get there, we will, and it will be in the Lord’s perfect timing. But in the midst of submitting and resubmitting paperwork and being put on hold time and again waiting for answers on the phone, impatience is a nagging companion. I don’t want to wait; I just want to get there! But obviously it is not yet the Lord’s timing, and so I wait. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).
I could choose to wait with my arms crossed and my foot tapping, ready at any moment to pack the suitcases. Or I could kick back and make myself comfortable out on the porch, swaying back and forth as the sun drops below the horizon.
As I wait for this potential move from one country to another, I think of the great men of faith who have gone before, the cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 11:13-16:
All these people [Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah] were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country — a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
True, the blessings of this earth are given to us to be savored and enjoyed. Yet I shouldn’t get so comfortable on my earthly porch swing that my longing for heaven is diminished. None of the believers mentioned in Hebrews received the promises while they were alive; yet they all received eternity. We may wait for many things in this life, but the most important thing we will ever wait for is to enter into eternity with God.
And I suppose herein lies the secret to true porch swing patience — namely, that the more I ask the Holy Spirit to align my will and desires to His, the more I am able to enjoy what I have been given now. The more I focus on God’s eternal purposes, the more my desires become in tune with His desires, and the more I can see how the daily happenings (or lack thereof) in my life are divinely orchestrated.
Instead of working myself up into a huff of impatience over the things I don’t have right this moment, I’m going to step outside, perch myself comfortably on the rhythmic sway of my swing, inhale the goodness of God, and exhale gratitude for all that He has given me, in this life and in the life to come.