Life is short, be patient…
“Maxima enim, Patientia virtus”
Patience is the greatest virtue
Who says that? Um, Axl Rose? “All you need is a little patience.” Aristotle? “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
On the other hand…”Life is short,” is also a well-known motto. It’s poetically penned by the Bible’s King David:
“As for man, his days are like grass. As a flower of the field, so he flourishes, for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and the place thereof remembers it no more.” Psalm 103:15.
Some would say, “Life is too short to wait.” Cripes, if life is too short to wait, how am I supposed to have patience? When I read that Psalm of King David, I get very impatient!
I also can’t count the number of elders who, when my children were small, reminded me, “It goes fast!” It is especially memorable when I was tearing my hair out over some toddler shenanigans and I heard, “Enjoy it!” I was definitely thinking more along the lines of Aristotle during those times. The kids are screaming at each other, throwing up or defying me to no end and you say, “Enjoy?” How do I “enjoy” this bitter time?
I believe I quoted 1 Corinthians 13 in another post. It is considered the “love” chapter of the New Testament. It begins, “Love is patient….” Now this I can understand. Patience alone as a virtue leads to a, “we-suck-as-humans-if-we-get-impatient” thought. But this says, patience is a virtue because of how it reveals love. Patience isn’t a virtue without reason, it is a virtue when used in the service of love. Consider this, in some cases, it would be plain stupid to wait patiently! Oh, I don’t know, calling 911 seems a good example. Love in that case reacts swiftly.
So those elders weren’t asking the impossible, because who in their right mind “enjoys” cleaning up vomit in the middle of the night!? They were reminding me to keep my love for the littles at the forefront of my interactions with them. To be patient in the tougher times, to model what love looks like. Because love wouldn’t shame them for being sick, or for interrupting my sleep, or having an emotional melt-down. It would be patient.
And the “life is short,” crowd. They aren’t asking me to fret about the speed of time passing, but to choose my daily actions and words wisely, while I can. To order my priorities based on what is truly valuable to me. To have a mindset of gratitude over grievances. People over possessions. Substance over style. To be joyful for the gift of life, no matter what circumstances the day brings.
I was watching two chipmunks on the rocks by the lake today. Have you ever seen a chipmunk up close? Those little guys are so cute! They scurry around looking all playful and curious. I couldn’t see their little mouths but it seemed as if their spirits were smiling as they checked me out, sitting on their rocks. Apparently their instinctive lives of foraging for food and digging their burrows play an important role in keeping trees alive! (According to National Geographic, animals.nationalgeographic.com.) Yet, they only live for about three years, if that long, since they are small and vulnerable to predators. I don’t know if they are patient in their endeavors, but they seem to model love a little bit. They do their thing with what looks like joy.
“Observe who is most patient in his love,
He is advantaged others all above.
Patience is virtue high, and that’s certain;
For it does vanquish, as these clerks make plain,
Things that oppression never could attain.
One must not chide for trifles nor complain.
Learn to endure, or else, so may I go,
You’ll have to learn it, whether you will or no….”
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tale’s,
“The Franklin’s Tale,” lines 63-70