I once tolerated the mistakes of others with the patience of a cat tolerating a mouse. Pounce. I was no kinder to myself.
It is seven o’clock on a summer morning in rural Wolfville, Nova Scotia. The sun is rising behind the oak trees, lighting up the raspberry patch. The farmer’s truck is loaded with baskets. It is the last week of the season. Mr. Weatherbee is salvaging the fruits from the canes of his hurricane-beaten crop. His wife Zelda tells us the story with a laconic smile. “There’s always next year,” she says. A farmer learns the meaning of patience or finds another way to earn a living.
Lack of patience is a mountain every inner peace missionary must climb. As always, it is your capacity to notice what flashes across your mind in the present moment that is key to seeing your real self, unblinded. While traveling with my wife yesterday, I had several opportunities, from getting stuck behind a garbage truck on a hill to finding a place to stay. These roll by now with hardly a never-you-mind. It wasn’t always that way. Indeed, lack of patience has caused many problems in my past life. It is our way of rejecting God’s timing.
One of these problems is when others misunderstand what I say. I say, “I think it’s going to rain.” She replies, perhaps after a pause, “Are you having a pain?” I grunt, “I didn’t say pain. I said rain.” If my tone of voice is strained, I’ve given my lack of patience away. She retorts, “Sorry! I just didn’t hear you properly! You had your hands in front of your mouth!” Harrumph. She’s right. I was chewing on a hang nail.
That night, I made a disappointing discovery. We always travel with our pillows. I’m especially enamoured with mine. It’s down-filled and I’ve upgraded it a couple of times over the years with a new casing and more down. Yesterday, we left them behind at the hotel in Yarmouth. Either of us could have noticed. Neither of us did. Still, it was her job, as I am the luggage carrier.
I’ve learned to accept most losses quickly. When I told her of my discovery, I spoke the news evenly, yet with the blame made plainly. “You forgot the pillows in Yarmouth.” She looked back with clear eyes, her mind searching her memory. “You’re right. I can’t recall having them with me when we left the room.” Her honest response moved me. Life is so much easier when you can be frank and not get into defensive battles. I moved on instantly. “We’ll call or email the hotel. Hopefully they still have them. They can mail them back home. I did it once before when I forgot mine at your dad’s place.”
Patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). We receive this gift when we are humbled by the many times we ourselves have made the same mistake. For the inner peace missionary, this awareness grows in us like the unfolding of an oak tree. Leaf by leaf, year by year, we become majestic but only in weakness. It is one more inner conflict – the spiritual struggle between the reality of the present moment and the delusions of our wishful thinking.