I believe I pray the same prayer every day and every night, and that is that I may grow more patience. And though there are days when it seems I'm a little more patient, there are also days where it seems I have no patience for anything.
Granted, I am "my father's daughter", as I have always said. My dad was a man of nearly zero patience, always complaining, always upset, it seemed. I didn't learn until much later in life how much he suffered because of this trait and how hard he worked to be patient. It wasn't until he was an old man in his 80's, especially the last four years of his life, when we saw the fruits of his efforts, even though the struggle was harder than ever for him.
Anyway, I take after him. I too, complain nearly constantly and have nearly zero patience. I have seen how hard it was for my dad and now it's hard for me too. But more than that, it is hard on everyone who has to live with me.
Finally, a breakthrough: forget patience. Love first. And then patience will come.
Patience is "putting up" with whatever is causing us impatience; a tolerance to endure it. But love is the foundation of everything; love will give you patience to endure and tolerate, to be more understanding.
Today at church, the homily was about humility and Mother Theresa, who is to be canonized a saint soon. I thought to myself, "What if Mother Theresa only focused on patience?" She would not be the loving saint that we know today.
I have seen people be patient. I see it mainly in the workplace, when people have to deal with difficult customers. And while they do well with patience, what comes across is only a forced politeness. I can't imagine Mother Theresa working off "politeness" only. Her work was simply much to hard to endure off of one virtue on its own. Her work had to be based off of love.
And so now I find myself in the same position as Mother Theresa. Her work was to be in another country, working with the starved and the poor. My work is within my own family; who may not be starving or nearly as desolate, but nonetheless is yearning and seeking God's love.
Where do we find it?
We find God's love in one another.
And so, no more prayers for patience for me. Rather, prayers that I may love more. That I may love God more, and desire that I love Him more, because who can say we already love enough? And that I may learn to love my family especially at the trying times, when I want to stop everything and say, "Enough!"
Today at Mass, I found myself again praying for patience as Henry was not just restless, but nearly body-slamming himself into me over and over, just out of boredom. Nothing I said to him would calm him down. Being the only parent (because Dennis works on weekends) I didn't feel free to leave all the kids in the pew to take him out. So I said to God, "What do I do now? I need Your help to be patient." And automatically, I gritted my teeth against my feelings of impatience.
But then, a reminder of Love. And instead of putting up with Henry's behavior, I instead took him against his will and began to slowly rub his arms up and down, up and down, focusing on drawing out the restlessness, the tension of cooped up energy....and he began to relax. Not only that, but the moment I stopped rubbing his arms, he immediately positioned his body in front of me and held up his little arms as a sign that he would like the gentle caresses again.
Love first, then patience. I never needed to draw on the patience I didn't have, but instead on love that comes from God. And then patience came.
Love first and patience will come.