If Patience is a Virtue, does that make Impatience a Vice?

When describing Tatooine to R2-D2 and C-3PO, Luke said, ‘If there’s a bright center to the galaxy, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.’

That feels like the most accurate description of me, when having a conversation about patience. I don’t find myself to be patient in most endeavors of my life. I often feel as though I am the antithesis of being patient. I just don’t the waiting thing well at all. I know this about me. Anyone who knows me well, knows this about.

I work in the child welfare and in mental health fields. I work with difficult, tough situations on a daily basis. I have the opportunity to wade into life with people who are dealing with all manner of trauma, difficulties, setbacks, hardships, and letdowns. Many of the families I work with, require a softer touch to effectively engage with them. I am in a leadership/mentoring program and a little while back, my mentor met with me in my office. As my mentor arrived, I was wrapping up a phone call with a client who was suffering from serious and difficult mental health diagnosis. This client struggles daily to recognize what is real and what is not. Sadly, most days she does not overcome that struggle and finds herself living a life based in non-reality. As my phone call concluded, my mentor commented I exhibited the patience of a saint on the phone call.

I have found my ability to be patient or understanding with others or the situations of others, is much greater than my ability to be patient or exercise patience in my own life. While I find it very easy to be calm, relaxed, and patient with others… I struggle to find the same calmness when surveying the landscape of my own life.

So far I have found the year 2020 to be one giant exercise in patience. Like many others, I find myself amidst struggles and hardships that require patience, calmness, and understanding to navigate. I often find myself asking God why he feels the need to constantly challenge to grow and increase my understanding and application of patience. When I reflect on this minor interaction with a mentor who saw me exhibit patience, understanding, calmness, and empathy to a client who was struggling; I begin to understand why I struggle with learning patience in my own life. I am fortunate to be trusted by others to step into their loves when they are struggling the hardest. I am fortunate to have the relational disposition to walk alongside others as they struggle.

It occurs to me, maybe I struggle so that I can help others when they struggle. Maybe the patience I am learning has little to do with finding calm or peace in my own life, but rather to be calmly and understandingly available to those around me who need someone to help lift them up.

Considering this, I don’t mind the continued lessons of patience God is consistently teaching me.

Detours

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I have been thinking quite a bit about detours. What I mean by detours is those times when you thought you knew how life was going to go or you were pretty sure you knew what direction you were taking, only to have the script flipped on you. So you had to detour.

Generally, I hate detours. Mostly, if I’m honest, it’s because I really am a creature of habit. I like adventure as much as the next guy, but I also really like my routine. I like to know what to expect. I like to know where I am going and when I am going to get there. And detours don’t really figure into that structure.

Not that I have anything to really complain or be upset about. My life is in a pretty good place right now. Our boys are healthy and doing well. Summer was pretty good for #theFloridaWestfalls. School is about to start back, bringing with it lots of new adventures. Noah, our oldest, is starting high school this year. We have had a change up in the sports our boys play, which is going to save us money and time over the next year. Ronda and I celebrated 21 years of being married last week and had a blast doing so in the mountains of North Georgia. Ronda’s business is going very well for her. Things are good for me at work.

But, there is still that feeling of restlessness and underlying discontent. As I self-reflect to try to understand where it is coming from, I feel the root cause is speaking to a deeper issue or a deeper sense of lack. A sense that I detoured long ago and still today I am feeling the effects of that detour. Maybe an example…

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This map was taken from the Hike Inn’s website – http://hike-inn.com/

Last week, Ronda spent a couple nights at the Len Foote Hike Inn.

It was amazing. We hiked five miles from Amicalola Falls State Park to this amazing inn. Literally, in the mountains away from civilization. We then hiked up to the approach trail to the Appalachian Trail and made our way up to Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the AT. When we left the inn to head back to the car, we took the trail that led us up to the AT approach trail and hiked that trail back out to our car. That was an equally great trail, with new sights we hadn’t seen on the way in… because it was a different trail. But once we were on the trail, we were on the trail and we had to deal with the ‘consequences’ on taking a different trail to hike out. Once we were on it, there was no going back. Technically, we could have gone back but you see what I mean.

That’s the kind of detour I feel like I am on. One that I got on a long time ago. One where the ripples of getting on it are still being felt today. And just like hiking out a different trail, this trail is a good one. It is one with new sights and new adventures I would never have imagined seeing or being a part of if not for being on it.

Sometimes, detours take longer to get to where we are going. For a number of reasons this is true. I have been called many things, but patient isn’t usually one of those things. I noticed I have difficulty being patient and waiting for things to happen or come to fruition. I have even been known to try to force things to happen, when they are happening fast enough for me. But often, rushing and forcing things to happen only makes it worse. I don’t think it is always true that good things come to those who wait, but in my case it is almost always certainly true that when I try to force things I make it worse.

Where does this leave us? I can only speak for myself, but it leaves me trying to slow down and be patient. To enjoy the detour for the sake of itself. Detours aren’t always bad, they take us to new places and put us on new paths we might not have chosen to go down if given the choice.