I have increasingly noticed the extent to which my impatience can get in the way of my parenting. My children, like yours, are capable of varying degrees of maddening behavior: from mild irritation to Chernobyl-like meltdowns. Sometimes they even seem to revel in my flummoxed sputtering! My reactions range from the wise to the stupid to the profoundly counter-productive. My impatience always leads to the stupid or counter-productive reaction.
What factors into our reactions? We all know maximum patience is the best elixir for growing young sprouts. It is also clear that the human drive to “have it your way now” is its chief impediment. I have noticed that there is a direct correlation to my impatience and the amount of time I spend on Planet David. What is Planet David? People these days can almost completely withdraw into a virtual world of their own making. At that person’s command, movies, shows, music, and many other things immediately spring to life. Cookies serve us by charting our preferences and suggesting items. “May I suggest House of Cards, my lord?” It is a whole world that revolves around me and I don’t need to wait for anything! Sign me up! Planet David!
It’s not that the substance of this is bad. Are you kidding? Mad Men is the best show ever! Who doesn’t want to listen to an infinite loop of Quadrophenia? The problem is the instant availability. One touch of a button and I get what I want… perfectly done right when I want it. Don Draper will even stop what he is doing and wait while I go into the kitchen to get a drink and a snack. And he won’t complain. If there is anything further from the reality of interacting with human beings, especially small human beings, it has to be this. Yet I train myself, albeit unconsciously, in this expectation while my patience shortens.
Holy Scripture uses many agricultural illustrations in its descriptions of the Kingdom of God and His interaction with human beings. Impatient people like me have nightmares about agriculture. It takes a LONG time to see anything even remotely gratifying. There are fig trees (and leaves), stubborn and clueless sheep, seeds, grains, planters, cultivators, and reapers. There are goats, weeds, rain, drought, soil, wheat, wolves, and lambs. The unifying principle behind all of these things is that it takes so much time, toil, patience, heartache, highs, lows, vigilance, and prolonged nurture. It is a world in which I am at the service of things that take a long, long time to come to fruition. It could not possibly be farther from the “Watch Instantly” mindset.
Sound familiar? Yep. Children. God knows about children and he knows about people. Where then does the change come for the good? It is certainly not someone telling me I need to be more patient. That has the effect of making me more impatient (with a helping of guilt). What changes me is this fact: I have a Good Shepherd who nurtures me in the manner Scripture illustrates.
I am a maddening sheep, mixed in motive and countenance. I grow slowly. I learn slowly. I am not one who can hear I am wrong very often. I tend to fall for the wiles of wolves and act foolishly based on my own inclinations. Yet He is always there: patiently nurturing, divine in long-suffering, gently entreating. He shows his great love and forgiveness for me by the anguish of His brow and by the nail scars on His hands. He never leaves, as much as I try His patience. He continues His cultivation. This sort of love and nurture cannot help but change a person. I am at my best with my children when I realize I am a nurtured child of God myself. A patiently cultivated child of the Good Shepherd who is infinite in His loving-kindness and long-suffering. I need it… especially when I’m on Planet David.