By Andrew Kreye
Like, REALLY slow.
I once spent fifteen minutes brushing my teeth.
My family used to make and eat their lunch in the same amount of time it took for me to make a sandwich. (In my defense, the art of sandwich-making is something that cannot be rushed.)
I don’t mind being slow, though, because it gives me time to think.
However, there’s one thing I can’t stand if it’s slow.
My own progress. In school, in fitness, or in my faith. I don’t have a lot of patience for myself, so I tend to push myself.
Sometimes too much.
As I’ve learned over the last few years, there’s a lot of things that can’t be rushed, or at least they’re better if they’re not rushed. Some of those things include: laundry, relationships, landscaping, and (as I’ve found out most recently) running.
If you want to learn patience quickly, I recommend taking up running. Nothing can motivate a person faster than searing pain with every step.
Except maybe a really good sandwich. Or ice cream. But shin splints are definitely up there.
“Be patient with all things, but especially with yourself.” – St. Francis de Sales
1. Take Your Time
“Truly, the Lord is waiting to be gracious to you, truly, he shall rise to show you mercy; For the Lord is a God of justice: happy are all who wait for him!” – Isaiah 30:18
One of the causes of shin splints is increasing the distance you’re running too quickly. I’ve noticed something similar happen in my faith life.
If you’ve ever been on a mission trip or gone to a Catholic conference or retreat, you may be familiar with the spiritual high you experience at the end.
You know, the “I LOVE BEING CATHOLIC THIS IS SO AWESOME JESUS IS THE BEST” feeling.
For the next few days, you are the holiest person ever! You’re offering to help with chores, you added like 30 minutes of prayer time every morning and a daily rosary, you’re looking for somewhere to do volunteer work, and you’re probs making tons of Bible jokes.
Or you’re just spewing out random facts about the saints any chance you get.
Sadly, it doesn’t take long for old habits to start creeping back in, and you slowly end up doing the exact same things you did before your life-changing experience.
One big reason is that we forget to prepare. (Stay tuned, more on that later.)
Just like in running, if we increase our “prayer-mileage” faster than we can handle, we might end up hurting ourselves. Not a physical injury, but an injury in our soul. A.K.A. sin.
“But praying more is a good thing! How could I sin if I just start praying all the time?”
Counter-question: Would you expect yourself to be able to run a marathon without training?
Prayer is a very good thing, but we need to build up endurance. It’s easy to get distracted in prayer, and if you’re like me, 30 minutes of prayer can turn into 2 minutes of prayer and 28 minutes of “What should I have for dinner?”
If you take on too much at once, you’re in danger of burning out. And when you’re exhausted, it’s much easier to say, “I’ll pray tomorrow, I’m just going to check Facebook and watch Netflix for the next 5 hours.” Not gonna lie, I’ve been there.
And after breaking my prayer schedule once, my first thought is, “Wow, I couldn’t even be consistent with that. What’s the point of trying again?”
And remember this: you will still sin. When you do, don’t beat yourself up. Do not despair. Just go to God. Go to Confession. And start again.
It will take time, so be patient with yourself. If you’re patient with your friends, why shouldn’t you be patient with yourself?
So instead of adding 30 minutes of prayer to your morning routine, start with 5. Then after a week, maybe you add another 5.
It might not seem like much, but God will bless the time that you offer to Him.
2. Patience is a Virtue
“But I spoke hastily. We must not be hasty. I have become too hot. I must cool myself and think; for it is easier to shout ‘stop!’ than to do it.” – Treebeard, J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
Have you ever said something and immediately wished that your mouth could turn into a vacuum and suck the words back in?
Yeah, me too.
Sometimes we can fix the situation with a few words, but it often takes a lot more to make everything better, if it can be made right at all.
After moments like that, I usually think, “If I had just waited a couple more seconds before I spoke…”
That’s where patience comes in.
I’ve said before that virtues are like spiritual muscles; the more you use them, the stronger they get.
“That’s great, but how do I ‘use’ patience? I’m not a Pokémon.”
You can start by practicing with little things.
The next time you go through a door, hold it open for the next person. Or if you’re in a line, let the person behind you go ahead of you.
Here’s a doozy: the next time you’re about to say, “Ok, just let me finish this episode first,” pause the show, do the thing, then finish it later.
I know. It’s harsh.
But if we take advantage of every little moment to grow in virtue now, we can avoid big problems later.
Don’t think of them as annoyances! Think of them as opportunities to grow in virtue!
3. Patience with God
“Be still before the Lord; wait for him. Do not be provoked by the prosperous, nor by malicious schemers.” – Psalm 37:7
Our lives are constantly changing, and at some points, we can feel God’s presence really easily. At other points, God seems distant. Like He’s hidden behind clouds.
St. Ignatius of Loyola calls these two different states in life spiritual consolation and desolation. It’s consolation when we feel God’s presence because, like the loving Father that He is, He consoles us and gives us strength. It’s desolation when we don’t feel God’s presence because, like a desolate wasteland, our prayer feels dry.
But even in desolation, we can see the Father’s love. God allows us to experience periods of desolation so that we can grow stronger in fighting temptations and also so we can fully appreciate periods of consolation.
Imagine a desert. When we are in desolation, it’s like we are walking through the desert. It seems hopeless to keep going, but if you give up, then you’ll never make it out. You just have to keep moving, and eventually you will make it out of the desert.
A moment of consolation is like an oasis in the desert. It fills us with joy and gives us strength, but you can’t stay there. You know you’ll have to go back into the desert. Drink deeply at the oasis so you can keep going through the desert.
Remember how I said that we need to prepare? This is how we do it.
When you can feel God’s love clearly, remember the feeling, and pray for strength to fight temptations when you feel alone. Pray for virtue.
And when you can’t see God, be patient with Him; He will make Himself known in time.
Remember: like the sun on a cloudy day, God is still there, even if we can’t see him. But don’t despair; the clouds will break.
“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-4