For JustFaith last week, we were assigned to read a chapter on patience from the Henri Nouwen’s book Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life. It points out how the true tests of patience often happen when we travel. On those long plane rides, those endless waits in line, when the unexpected happens, when flights are delayed or cancelled.
I was saying yesterday that it’s second nature for me to approach these waiting periods simply as moments to be endured or barely tolerated. Just the other day (after reading this chapter from Compassion), I took my 5 year-old out on an impromptu date (imagine her squealing GIRLS’ NIGHT! and requesting to wear heels and a dress), and the wait was really long. We’re talking at least an hour, and we got to the restaurant at 6:30 already hungry.
Had I been acting out of impatience or a need to get to the goal of eating dinner, I would have changed plans and tried talking her into going somewhere else. But because I knew my purpose was to spend some quality time with her and because she was really excited about eating at this specific restaurant, we stayed.
Patience means to enter actively into the thick of life…the capacity to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell as fully as possible the inner and outer events of our lives. It is to enter our lives with open eyes, ears, and hands so that we really know what is happening” (Nouwen et. al. 91).
Patience involves staying with it, living it through, listening carefully to what presents itself to us here and now…In short, patience is a willingness to be influenced even when this requires giving up control and entering into unknown territory” (Nouwen et. al. 91).
And in staying, in actively choosing to enter in and spend my time giving my full attention to the real matter at hand — time with my daughter — I caught a glimpse of what Nouwen describes as the fullness of time:
These patient moments are moments in which we have a very different experience of time. It is the experience of the moment as full, rich, and pregnant. Such an experience makes us want to stay where we are and to take it all in. Somehow we know that in this moment everything is contained: the beginning, the middle, and the end; the past, the present, and the future; the sorrow and the joy; the expectation and the realization; the searching and the finding.
For a very long time, I thought that experiencing the fullness of time was limited to really major, life-altering events. Like giving birth or graduating from college or [insert some other major life milestone].
But I think that God is slowly showing me that we’re being invited to experience the fullness of time in even the most ordinary of events and circumstances. And that makes me really happy.
Because it means that whatever I am doing here and now is enough. I just have to have eyes to see.