“Patience is a virtue,
Virtue is a grace;
Grace is a little girl
Who wouldn’t wash her face!”
This is a nursery rhyme my mom used to encourage patience in me as a child – and which I have the privilege of reciting to my own child as well. In trying to find the source of this rhyme, it quickly became clear that there is no single origin. The introductory line can be traced back to The Canterbury Tales in the 14th century; however, it’s possible that it actually dates back as far as the 3rd or 4th century A.D.
Whatever the case, the idea that ‘patience is a virtue’ has been around for a while, and with good reason. I appreciated the explanation given by yourdictionary.com: “Part of the reason this has been a long-standing truth throughout history is because patience often goes against our instincts. It’s something everyone struggles with, including our earliest ancestors. The good news is, patience is a skill that can be learned over time. The more we exercise patience, the less likely we are to become agitated when forced to wait for something. Mastering this virtue will make for a happier life. That’s certainly one of the reasons why it’s so famously touted by writers and philosophers alike.”
The virtue of patience came to my mind a couple of months ago, after the driver of the car-carrier truck behind me ever-so-politely came to my car, in stopped traffic, knocked on my window and gently requested that I not dart in front of him as I had done. He said that if I’d signalled my desire to change lanes and waited a little while, he’d have let me in. Fair enough.
Right after that incident, as the Christian radio station that I usually enjoy hosted its week-long semi-annual fund drive (which meant that I was hearing more pleas for money than pleasant music), I found myself station-surfing to find an alternative. I landed on a member-supported station playing an enjoyable tune. After that, though, they aired a long track of guitar and pan flute instrumental melody. This is not my normal choice of music. I usually prefer songs with meaningful words, often with a quicker beat. On that day, however, already mindful of cultivating more patience in myself, I chose to stay on that station, sit with it, and enjoy it for its slower pace and calmness. I still don’t particularly enjoy that style of music, but it was an interesting experience to let that song be, to just be patient and not switch stations again right away.
Another reason to be patient on Australian roads (where I live) is the preponderance of speed cameras. While I understand the value of such devices in calming particularly violent or dangerous stretches of road, they are mostly revenue-raisers in this country. The law does not allow for much lenience either: drive at a speed beyond a few kilometres per hour over the speed limit will elicit a ticket and hefty fine. Although I prefer to drive freely, still responsibly, but without checking my speedometer every few hundred metres, a fear of fines lightens my lead foot somewhat.
Those situations, combined with noticing some other instances of unnecessary lane-changing in relatively heavy traffic just to get a car length or two ahead, have got me thinking more and more about how driving, unless explicitly in a race, isn’t actually a race! Arriving somewhere on time is important, but, under normal circumstances, not critical. Getting my child to school on time is a good habit to be sure, but if we happen to be a little late sometimes, so what? It won’t be the end of the world: I’ll write an explanatory note, and we’ll each be on our ways.
I have the propensity to want to be exactly on time, which is a very narrow window of time, which means I’m always prone to being a teeny bit late. Somewhere along the way, I apparently decided that being early was not cool! In light of my new awareness of patience, however, I have a new appreciation for being early, and being patient until the right time to enter the building, or join the party, or whatever the scenario. It is disrespectful of me to make someone else wait; I just need to suck it up.
Wanting to bring the Lord into the conversation, I was curious to see what the He has to say about such matters. I came upon a couple of instances from His Word, including explanations thereof in the Writings for the New Church:
“The seed that is in the good ground, these are they who in a simple and good heart, hear the word, hold it fast, and bear fruit in patience.” (Luke 8:15)
The Heavenly Doctrines describe that “’to bring forth fruit in patience’ signifies to do truths and goods even when living amid falsities and evils, that is, among those who are in falsities and evils.” (Apocalypse Explained 813:4)
“If anyone shall lead into captivity he shall go into captivity; if anyone shall kill with the sword he must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.” (Revelation 13:10)
Again, in the Heavenly Doctrines we read that “’the patience of the saints’ signifies the temptation of the faithful, or of those who are made spiritual by the Lord, because ‘patience’ signifies spiritual patience, which is patience in sustaining temptations; and those have that patience who fight in themselves against the falsities that are contained in the dogma of faith alone and that adhere to it; for that faith is confirmed by reasonings from the natural man and from the Word wrongly applied and thus falsified. The temptations that such sustain when they fight against falsities are meant by ‘patience.’” (Apocalypse Explained 813:2)
I am really glad to have found these passages, and they’re shedding a new light on the concept and importance of cultivating patience! Learning patience in this world is useful for a variety of worldly reasons, such as for health and safety (and for the law and personal finances, i.e. not breaking the law and not going broke on account of speeding tickets!), and now we can see the next, spiritual dimension of this virtue. It’s about facing temptation, which, superficially, includes resisting the urge to zoom ahead or cut someone off, automotively or otherwise, but which, on a deeper level, extends into rationalising things from our natural minds and from the Word and applying them incorrectly to life matters. The Lord urges us to practice patience, to sustain temptation, and promises that, as a result, we will be implanted with truths and be made spiritual, as we trust in Him and work to do goods and truths even amid the falsities and evils in this world around us.
These sound like reasons enough to me!