No one is naturally patient. “Natural” patience is merely a blessed lack of urgency and fretfulness. People who are not prone to fret, worry, or hurry do not require patience. They do not face the trials that necessitate that quality. Patience is a response. It is a virtue when it is the result of one’s victory over the very natural and pressing anxiety some of us experience that things be done NOW or PROPERLY or AS WE EXPECT THEM TO BE DONE.
A youth pastor of mine once gave sage advice I have never forgotten: Be careful what you pray for- and never pray for patience. I found his words to be true, for each time I have prayed for patience I have immediately experienced a situation in which my natural inclination toward urgency or particularity is revealed. I am faced with a choice to move with my emotions toward anxiety, even at times to unloving words and deeds; or to release my [imagined] control of the situation and accept the pace or manner in which events are unfolding.
It is in the quiet moments, when patience has triumphed, that one can see clearly. Motives are unpacked under the bright lamp of reason and we see our frustration for what it is. At the root of impatience we find selfishness. Victorious patience moves our gaze out; it lets us see more than our own requirements When patience reigns in our relationships, it teaches us to love instead of scraping against and irritating one another. When patience is required to face the circumstances of life, it teaches us to trust God instead of stamping our feet and folding our arms in a pouty tantrum.
I have never been “naturally” patient and I know I never will. But I can hope, through Christ, to love others more and trust God more fully, and thereby need patience less frequently. If the focus moves away from MY will, MY demands, MY way of doing things, we will be winning a greater battle.