Patience is a fruit
A couple of years ago in a group of friends, one woman, who I look up to and see as a mentor even though she doesn’t know it, warned me that praying for patience would bring practice. What I mean by that is that patience is a fruit of the spirit and something we are called to show (because against such things there is no law).
To be patient in all situations, we need practice. Makes sense. I’ve prayed for patience for years in spite of this promise that God answers prayers and it being my responsibility to demonstrate fruit. When I pray, according to my mentor and every other woman who ever read whatever book it was in, God will give me a chance to show patience. So she (they) says, “Don’t pray for patience, unless you want to have the chance to show you can be patient.” Fine.
The first issue I need to address is that I probably should stop having unwitting mentors. It’s unfair, and maybe if these women knew they were mentoring me, it wouldn’t have taken so long for them to guide me to the truth I expected them to help me discover.
A dear friend, who apparently thinks of herself as more of an acquaintance, wrote me a lovely birthday card with an aside about how I needed to make sure I was trying to develop supportive relationships with strong Christian women. I said, “I do have good friendships. What about you?” She looked a tad shaken when I said that and said, “I mean women you can call whenever you need something.” I’m not really that needy, so I was a little confused. “Well, could I call you?”
So now I am trying to make a point of actually talking to the women who I admire rather than observing. The way I say that makes me sound creepy, but it’s not, I swear. It’s action that drives my interest, not words. Anyone who knows me knows I struggle to pay attention when anyone talks, unless it’s about me or food. It’s usually composure and poise, two things I feel like I lack, that draw my admiration.
So after years of boiling blood, red-faced frustration, etc., I’ve decided to subject myself to situations that ordinarily encourage impatience. Road construction? I think I’ll go that way. Children want to flip the pancakes? Why not?
Give my Grampa a ride to the bank? I suppose! This one is one that tests my patience at a maximum level, not only because Grampa is extraordinarily cumbersome and therefore moves with the grace and stealth of an ant that has been poked in the mid section by a 6-year-old with a toothpick, but also because he takes opportunities to jab at my faith a little, tiny bit.
My maternal grandfather, and much of my maternal family, is Catholic. Most are non practicing, but a few of them are seemingly steadfast. I know my grandfather receives Holy Communion from the same nun who taught most of his children in either the first or the fifth grade (I have no idea which because neither the nun nor my Grampa are renowned for their keen memories). I love and have absolutely no problem with Catholics. I would probably still be Catholic if my husband hadn’t led me where he felt pulled.
Now don’t anyone misunderstand the preceding words or the following. I don’t feel like non denominational belief is any better or worse than denominational belief provided the same core belief is held: That Jesus, son of God and God himself, died for my sins by unimaginable suffering and rose again three days later to defeat death itself. I’m afraid however, this is not mirrored by much of my Catholic family (or the nun).
In my former job, I wrote a small feature about this nun, who celebrated 75 years of ministry in June 2011. During the interview, it came to be known that I am my mother’s daughter and therefore the niece and granddaughter of the appropriate people for this nice sister to engage me in a conversation about.
She was genuinely riled when she asked, “Did you know your uncle left the Catholic Church, and he fancies himself some sort of preacher or something?” Her tone went up throughout this sentence, giving me every indication of her opinion here.
“I did know that, Sister,” I responded, fully aware that I, too, have left the Catholic Church and hold identical beliefs, for the most part, as this uncle she had not yet condemned out loud, but implied disdain for his form of salvation. I held my tongue to only include the pertinent information. After all, I was there to talk about her, not me.
“Do you know how I can get a hold of him to set him straight?”
I know what everyone is thinking. That I wouldn’t. Well, I actually would.
Out loud, I would say that the years in Catholic school made nuns intimidating to me, so I was afraid she’d get out the ruler or a paddle or something else stereotypical of nun-style discipline, but that’s not entirely the case. First off, I’m not afraid of nuns. They were all pretty nice to me, and I don’t have horror stories. But mostly, I love my uncle very much, and I knew he would understand that I was simply trying to entertain myself with my next move.
“Do you have a piece of paper? I’ll write down his number,” I offered. I wrote my uncle’s cell phone number in large, easy-to-read handwriting and left it next to her phone.
That was kind of that.
When I was traveling the short jaunt to the bank with Grampa, he naturally brought up his activities in the assisted living facility. He mentioned that Communion is once a month, and “boy that sister really has been driving your uncle nuts.” That piqued my interest because it was kind of about me.
Grampa said Sister also tried to sell him on my uncle’s “falling away” with surprising results. There I was, thinking “here we go with the ridicule of all things not papal” when, to my astonishment, these words came out:
“I told her, ‘You know, Sister, you taught all of my children in first grade (or fifth). Do you know that the only one who still attends a church regularly is (this uncle of mine)?’”
I was blown away. I said, “Yes. I can take you to the bank,” and this is what I received as reward. My Grampa stuck up for my uncle’s faith. In doing so, he also was my champion. Now the sweet Sister may not know that I, also, “fell away” from THE Church, but I hope she learns to see it in a slightly different light than she’s looking at it now. My salvation, and that of countless others, including Catholics and Protestants alike, depends not on which organization I tithe to or which Narthex I pass through to my sanctuary, but on the core belief that my Savior did exactly what he always planned to do, which was save me. And I believe (as do my Catholic friends and family) that Jesus will return again, at which point I’m confident there will be plenty of surprises.
Subjecting myself to a situation that required my patience didn’t just pay off for me, but it gave me hope that I have plenty more chances to show this fruit, and show it I will.