This summer, we set out, with the help of my (Daniel’s) brother, to teach our ten and eight-year-olds how to water ski. My brother pulled them behind his boat, while I and bobbed up and down in the water with them. One at a time, I attempted to teach them how to get up on skis. Each time my brother would take off, Josie would ski a little bit further before she let go of the rope. I would then swim to her and help her get set again. The last time she got up, Josie skied about fifty yards before falling. I was so proud of her when she got in the boat. Then I realized I had to start the entire process over again as Colby jumped in the water. It required a tremendous amount of patience to continue this process.
Patience does not come naturally for most of us. More often than not, it has to be produced supernaturally within us. This is one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit. He produces something in us called the fruit of the spirit that we read about in Galatians 5:22-23. It’s basically the personality of Jesus coming out of us as we walk in a relationship with Him. As we follow Him, he presents us with opportunities to refine those characteristics in our lives. Very few things test and refine our patience like marriage and rearing children… and teaching your children to water ski! So, why is it important to have patience in our relationships?
First, I need to be patient with others because we all stumble. James 3:2 says, “We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” I (Bonnie) concede that I fail to live up to others’ expectations for me daily. I cook chicken way more often than my children would like. I get my son to baseball practice thirty minutes late because I read the schedule wrong. I don’t get blog posts written on time. I yelled at my children because they were acting like children. I snap at my husband because he was the first person to walk in on my bad mood. On and on it goes. In those moments that I am not at my best, I greatly desire for my family to have patience with me. But, the moment one of them doesn’t live up to my expectations or slows me down, I become impatient and rude. If I want others to be patient with me, I have got to allow Jesus to extend His kind of patience to them through me.
Another reason we need patience in our relationships is that it helps us gain perspective. So often, we get caught up in getting instant results that we fail to think about the long-term outcome. This is particularly true in parenting. In the moment, all we can see is a room that needs to be cleaned or the dishes left on the table after dinner. If we can patiently keep the end in mind, we will be less concerned with harping on tasks. Instead, we’d be more diligent about having the conversations that shape the character we would like to see produced in our child at age eighteen. We say that the only time we really fuss at our children is when they aren’t acting like adults. We’re so thankful the Lord doesn’t deal this impatiently with us!
1 John 4:16 explains it this way. “God is love. Christ has perfect patience toward us, forgiving us of sin and faithfully working in us to transform us into his likeness.” God knows we aren’t all we can be right now. We will mess up, learn from our failures, and eventually grow up to look more like His son, Jesus, through the process. In the same way, we have to take a long view of our relationships with our spouse and children. To do this requires patience.
Finally, patience reorders our priorities. We get it. The dog will eat and choke on the mess on the floor, so rooms need to be cleaned right now! School starts in twenty minutes, so my daughter needs to get in the car right now! It’s an hour past bedtime, so my son needs to stop stalling and get in bed right now! I will be late to work if my wife doesn’t get home from the grocery store right now! Dinner will be cold if my husband doesn’t pull in the driveway right now! There is always something that we feel needs to be done immediately. However, patience allows us to see the big picture, which, in turn, reorders our priorities.
There will be a day that our house will be perfectly clean. We will set bedtime and keep it because there will be no children around stalling and asking to be tucked in. Work will still be there, and dinner can be reheated. If we are patient, we will prioritize the relationships in our lives over the tasks that we are pushing those people to complete in the time and fashion we want them to. Patience, like that of our heavenly Father, isn’t achieved. It’s received. Only Christ can give Christ-like patience. So, let’s continue to walk with Him and allow Him to work in and through us to be patient with the people in our lives.
Enjoying the Adventure,
Daniel & Bonnie