Some years ago, I was trying to fix my bike and realized that accessing the gears required a special tool—a gear cassette lockring tool. I didn’t have one and my progress came to a standstill.
When I am working on something, I want to get it done. In this case, I had the time and was ready to repair my bike. Not having the tool stopped my progress. Being self-reliant is generally a positive attribute. A willingness to jump in and get the job done completes tasks.
Since I wanted to fix my bike right then, I tried everything. Wedging some needle-nose pliers into the gaps didn’t work. A flathead screwdriver didn’t work. A hammer would be effective at bending the pieces but would do nothing to help. The only thing that made sense was to give up, go inside, and look up the tool online. It cost less than $8. But, I would have to wait until it arrived to keep working.
Opportunities to learn patience surround us. In Galatians 5:22-23, patience is the third fruit of the spirit. James 5.7 frames patience as an edict. “Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.”
The old saying, “Patience is a virtue,” dovetails with our faith. Jesus demonstrated patience with Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, a lawyer, an unnamed woman, and, even, his closest disciples. They all did things to frustrate him. He reacted and often used the circumstances as teaching moments. Still, he usually did not lose his patience.
Between Paul, James, and Jesus, we have a solid basis for practicing patience in our faith journeys. Practicing is the operative word. Patience doesn’t come naturally to most people. If it comes easily to you, don’t worry—there are other things you can work on. We all have spiritual blemishes and God is with us as we seek to grow.
For those of us who will mess up the end of a bike gear cassette for the lack of an $8 tool, practicing patience is a spiritual discipline with practical implications. Being patient is not only good for repair projects, it is good for relationships. It allows us to pause and extend grace to one another. When Paul refers to it in Galatians, each fruit of the spirit fosters deeper faith. When James instructs Christ-followers to be patient, the idea connects with having perspective and taking the long view. In his analogy, farmers cannot plant and then grow impatient for the crop to grow. They must wait.
By focusing our spiritual growth on one thing, like patience, it becomes easier to digest. We can say, “Today, I will be patient in a situation in which I normally wouldn’t.” The following day, we can try to be patient in 2, 3, or more situations. With more practice, being patient gets easier. This is how we can grow.
We will still fall, but God extends grace, picks us up, and lets us try again. That’s practicing patience.