It seems like it always happens when you are in a hurry! It’s got to be one of Murphy’s Laws right? You leave a little late from home, you’re on your way to your destination clearly with a minute or two to spare and it happens: Red lights flash, bells ring, and the long arms of the robotic rail crossing guard come down to block your passage. It is then you realize: “I will be late.” Even if you won’t be late, you find yourself tapping your foot, talking to the railroad cars hoping to hurry them on their way. Though the average time for this scene is 3-5 minutes; you sit in your car waiting, feeling like this crazy train is taking up an hour of your day. Now you will probably not get that homework done and you might fail your test today, all because this train picked now to cross your path.
Exaggerated? Perhaps, but often anything that blocks our busy lives and schedules irritates and bothers us. The other day as I sat waiting for the train to pass and observed my sense of anxiety while waiting I was reminded that the “Fruit of the Spirit” includes patience (Galatians 5:22-23). Two thoughts came to mind. First, “If I find it hard to be patient waiting for a train to pass, an inanimate object that has no emotional connection to my life and no willful reason to either help or hurt me, how can I ever be patient with the people around me with whom I do have emotional connections? How will I be patient with those who are clumsy, annoying, “wrong,” loud or quiet, nice or mean? Secondly, “how does one develop this patience which is characteristic of God and his Son who walked the earth?”
Patience, as well as all of the Fruit of the Spirit, is not formed by talking about it. You can talk about it all you want, affirm that we all ought to have it, but the only way you gain patience is to practice it. Patience is formed by waiting. Patience is developed by waiting without complaining and without a growing sense of anxiety. Perhaps we ought to be praying for more trains to cross, to slow us down and give us opportunity to practice patience more. Perhaps we should always choose the longer line, hold off on the all-important purchase, learn to sit and listen to another with no hurry. Patience grows with real world practice. Be assured though, “love is patient,” and growing a patient heart and mind is indeed growing in Christ.