I’ve been thinking about Dave’s sermon on patience last weekend (6/9), and one phrase stuck out to me: patience is the glue that holds relationships together. Dave talked about how anger and bitterness drive relationships apart, but patience holds them together. Patience helps us move from isolation to intimacy.
What does patience look like in relationship? I mean, if patience isn’t just being silent, tolerant, or putting up with each other, then what does it look like? To me, patience is creating space to be open to another person. It is bracketing off our own issues in order to enter into another’s life.
I’d like to offer three types of patience that serve as relational glue: patience with time, space, and problems.
1. Patience with Time
If patience is opening up space for each other, then the first, most basic part of patience is making time for each other. If I look at my normal week, between working, attending classes, doing chores, errands, cooking, and sleeping, I can go days without setting aside intentional time to simply be with those closest to me. Business can be like a current that pulls us out to sea. It takes a lot of strength and intentionality to make a decision to actually set aside time be fully present with people. Time together has to become important.
When I was 10 years old, my parents decided to unhook the TV from the wall. As far as I was concerned, the world had ended. Why would my parents do such a thing? They made a decision that our time as a family is precious, and they didn’t want to let our childhood slip by watching TV four hours a day (the national average!) They patiently bracketed off time, opening up space for our family to interact, face-to-face. My wife and I have chosen to follow suit, and enjoy having one less thing to distract us from what's most important.
What might it look like for you to bracket off time to be present with those closest to you? Would it mean turning off your TV? Getting off your iPhone? Or maybe it could look like opening your time up to care for others outside your family, like getting involved in a LifeGroup, or getting to know students at youth group, or helping at Summer Night Lights. If love is patient, then God is calling us to open up our time to each other.
2. Patience with Space
Sometimes, even if time is set aside, it is difficult to actually be present in each other’s lives. It’s often easy to talk about things outside of ourselves: sports, weather, kids, news, politics, you name it. Sometimes it’s harder to talk about how we’re actually doing. Being patient involves giving space to hear each other.
My friend Darrell is great at this. Whenever we get together, we’ll be talking about whatever, then he’ll pause and say “Connor, how are you?” I know by the way he pauses that he is setting space apart to connect. He shows patience by bracketing off the chit-chat and focusing on me.
I admit that this is a pretty basic skill. But think about when it goes wrong: often, the reason we don’t ask is because it takes courage to truly ask how another is doing. What if he’s not okay? What if she’s mad at me? Creating space for these conversations takes a whole lot of patience. What relationship do you need to be more patient in? Maybe you’re great at spending time with others, but don’t often allow space for deeper relationship. At home, in your LifeGroup, at Summer Night Lights, at work, how are you making space to hear from another person and to share of yourself?
Too often we think of patience as something we do when others tick us off. But I'd bet if we patiently made time and space for each other, we’d find we didn’t get so ticked off in the first place. If love is patient, then God is calling us to make space to hear each other.
3. Patience with Problems
Are you able to be patient with other’s problems? In my first year training to be a therapist, I had to do practice therapy with an acting client. We were given a couple of rules: don’t ask any questions and don’t give advice. Why? Because for most of us, the moment we sense that someone’s not okay, we freak out and do everything we can to stop it. We get so anxious that we lose the chance of being a healing presence in another's life.
It has taken years for me to learn the skill of being patient with people’s problems. It’s still hard. It takes patience to listen to other’s problems. It takes even more to listen to another’s problems when they’re about you. Emotions are like a tight muscle that needs patient care and attention, not like a fire that needs to be put out.
What would your relationships look like if you were willing to patiently hear other’s problems, even when they’re focused on you? I imagine that a deep love would be encouraged if we were able to be patient with each other in this way. If love is patient, then God is calling us to be patient with each other's problems.
Thu, June 13, 2013
by Connor McClenahan filed under