Patience is a virtue. I have no idea where that cliche came from, but I’m beginning to find great value in it. We recently visited family in Ohio and I always experience a bit of shock with the suburban rush. The frenzy and anger that comes with suburban life are fascinating.
Suburbs are different from living in the city or in the country. The suburb mindset is rushing to get into or out of a place. That’s a hard way to live life. One of the gifts of visiting other places and seeing how they live is that it helps me step back and look at my life from a different perspective.
So, we’ve been watching people rush around. There is a general sense of impatience and anger that doesn’t feel life affirming. I was standing in line at the grocery store with someone I love and she started to get incredibly irritated at the person in front of us who was chatting with the store clerk. It was obvious that the shopper was a mom who needed a reality break from hanging out with little kids all day. This clerk was helping reconnect her to a bigger world outside of sippy cups and diapers.
I was struck by what a huge ministry store clerks have. My grandma loved the women who worked at Super Duper because they were her only connections to a world that was bigger than sickness or her house. Outside of family, her social circle was the doctor, hairstylist, and clerks. I will always be thankful that they took the time and patience to ask about her life and help her feel human again.
I worry that our impatience goes hand in hand with the growing loneliness in our
culture. I know that I get wound up in my own busyness and impatience, even in Juneau with its slower pace of life. I need to apologize to a clerk at a certain store in town for when I got irritated after waiting in line for 30 minutes and then none of my coupons worked. I snapped at her and my kids called me on it in the car later. Impatience causes irritation, irritation disconnects us from others and instead of helping each other become more human we destroy a bit of one another.
There are two words in the Bible that get translated as “patience.” One is “makrothumia,” which means big tempered or hearted. It gets translated to longsuffering in the King James Version. It is a word that describes God’s attitude to God’s people and is held up for how we should walk with each other. God’s vision for our lives is having long tempers instead of short fuses.
Seeing impatience in action reminds me to cultivate more patience in my life. Taking a few minutes to grow my heart and my temper a little bigger may relieve some of the overwhelming loneliness and disconnect in our community. That’s worth a few minutes. In all honesty, I’d rather be late than grumpy.
• Tari Stage-Harvey is the pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.