I hear it all the time: "You are so patient."
I have a confession. I do not have some magical patience power.
Wanna know the secret? To be patient, you must also have understanding. Patience and understanding sway together as if they were children holding hands, pulling one another along. If one stops, the other stops. If we understand, we are able to be patient. Lack of patience shows a lack of understanding.
Let me give you an example: a couple of years ago, I was sitting in McDonald’s for a special lunch time with some very special little boys with a horrible family situation. Happy meals truly did make these troubled boys happy.
A mother and two little boys sat down at the table next to us. My lunch dates were excited about the prospect of new friends and, bravely, they they began chatting with the boys next to us.
One of the boys with me asked the boys at the other table, "What are your names?" After the boys responded, the conversation quickly turned into rapid fire Twenty Questions.
With each question, I noticed the mother's annoyance rising.
Finally, I suggested to my young friend, “Let’s give them some privacy and eat our nuggets. I think they need to eat their lunch.”
A few minutes later, the same boy at my table asked the boys at the other table, "What are your names?"
The other mother had had enough. Without knowing our situation, she snapped at me for the way I was raising my children.
I couldn't believe it. I was furious.
I wanted to stand up and scream at this woman for how she judgmentally treated these little boys and me. I realized in that moment that it is better to show patience to her and ask her for understanding.
I invited her to step aside with me for a moment. I explained that these little children were in foster care and hurting. I had them for only one day. The boys had endured so much abuse at their previous home. Because of the abuse, our young interviewer had brain damage, causing him to only remember things for a few moments. I then firmly asked this shocked mother to respect my young friends while we ate our lunch.
She humbly went back to her seat, ashamedly bit her tongue and spoke softer to the boys, and actually engaged with them kindly. Although she was quick to judge, the impatience melted away as her eyes were opened with understanding.
When people see our family with seven adopted children, they understandably ask us lots of questions. They are not trying to be nosy, but rather seeking to understand our situation. They are curious because they don’t know.
Our family tries to respond each time with patience and purpose, because we see this as a ministry from God. In these situations, I always think about the old GI Joe cartoon with the public service announcements at the end of the show, each ending with the phrase: "Now I know! And knowing is half the battle."
While most of the time, it is okay to ask questions, we shouldn’t need to know each person’s history to treat them with kindness and respect. We shouldn't need to know about children's backgrounds to weigh whether or not we will be polite to them. Someone should not tell me their life story in order for me to give them grace.
Let’s stop seeing people around us for their works (good or bad) and start respecting them for the miracle child they are in God’s eyes.
Despite our (sinful) inability to measure up to God's standard, our Heavenly Father patiently loves His children. He does not ask us to explain our stories as reasons for Him to love us. Instead, He sent His Son to die on a cross and be raised back to life to defeat Satan, sin, and death. He patiently loves us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
If our holy and gracious God is able to be patient with us, isn’t it our responsibility to be patient with others around us? With whom do you need to be more patient? Do you find yourself being impatient or frustrated with a people group with whom you come in contact?
I want to urge you to develop a deeper relationship with them to gain further understanding into who they are so that you may grow a greater patience with them.
Lord, may our eyes be opened in understanding towards the people around us. We seek to have our hearts softened with compassion instead of a hardened heart because we don’t know everyone’s story.
May our curious minds be filled with the knowledge that although You know each person’s past, present and future; we don’t have to know to love them. We trust You with our patience for others as we can only love because You first loved us. We know that love is patient and we desire to deepen our understanding.
Thank you for your great patience with me.
See You In The Round,
*Scripture quotations are from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.