At a Bible study not long ago, we were talking about patience, passionate patience to be exact. We were looking at 2 Peter 1:5-9 from the Message. This discussion really got me thinking about patience and when I am patient and impatient in my own life.
Living in Thailand has taught me a lot about being patient and moving at a slower pace of life. Even still, I am often impatient when a person is walking the speed of a snail down the street or a cashier is moving at an agonizingly slow speed (I think that cashiers in Thailand just must be among the slowest in the world). Thailand is a hot, tropical country which means that people move slowly so that they don’t sweat as much or overwork their bodies. I am used to a fast-paced lifestyle where everyone moves quickly from place to place. I like to walk quickly from here to there (I need to get my exercise, you know). For this reason, Andy and I are forever zooming around people as they mosey their way down the street, and then I am impatient when we can’t get around them.
Second, Thailand is a very relational culture. It is more important to say hello to a friend than be on time to something. People understand if you are late because they are often late themselves. Sometimes this is because they are running late, but, more often, it is because they saw an old friend or got a phone call or some other relationally important interruption. When I run into a friend on the street, I have to remind myself to stop and talk with them, even if it will make me late. Also, when walking with our Thai friends, we must discipline ourselves to walk at their speed and enjoy it (because we are spending time with them). This gets me to what I realized: When my focus is right, I have little difficulty waiting and being patient. I can even be passionately patient (well, at least sometimes).
Let me explain this with an example. When I give myself plenty of time to get to where I am going, I don’t get impatient with people interrupting me or things slowing me down. I enjoy stopping to say hi to a friend or am thankful that I got on a safe and slow bus or taxi. Conversely, when I am just going to make it to where I need to go in time or am tired, then I am impatient at the slightest thing slowing me down. That slow and safe bus now becomes a source of frustration. I wish that I was in the fast (and dangerous) bus or taxi that would get me to where I need to go quickly. When I have time, I can shift my focus to whatever it needs to be on and pause to be relational. On the other hand, if I am in a rush or am tired, then I can only think about the end task and have a hard time waiting for anything.
What do you think? When are you most patient? Impatient?