On Patience

“…today we are used to thinking that there are explanations for everything. But there is no explanation for most of what goes on in our own hearts, and we cannot account for it all…But if we learn how to have a deep inner patience, things solve themselves, or God solves them if you prefer, but do not expect to see how. Just learn to wait, and do what you can and help other people.” -Thomas Merton

Isn’t it interesting how the right words seem to come to you at the right time?  I found the above quote in my inbox just now.  I get weekly inspiration from mertoninstitute.org.  Sometimes the quotes don’t really speak to me, but at other times, they’re dead on.

I’ve talked in previous posts about the lack of “explanation for most of what goes on in our hearts.”  However, the aforementioned quote brings up something I have great difficulty with – patience.

Some people will disagree and say I have plenty of patience.  In some situations, this is true.  For example, when I’m working with residents at the nursing home.  But that’s not the kind I’m talking about.

What I have trouble with is waiting for things to “solve themselves” as Merton says.  For example, last spring I was looking for a new place to live.  My roommate wanted to cut her commute time and was moving out.  I knew in my heart that things would work themselves out, but I had a lot of trouble waiting for them to do so.  No, I didn’t just sit back to see what would happen – and that’s not what I’m proposing.  I did “what I could” (as Merton suggests). I posted ads for roommates and looked at one bedroom apartments just in case I couldn’t find a roommate.

I found plenty of one bedroom places no bigger than a shoe box and a few roommates that just didn’t work out.  Thoroughly frustrated, I would say to God, “Ok…I’ve had just about enough of this – can you please just let me in on what you’ve got planned here?”  And I’d get silence.  But I could see him just sitting there smiling – like that look your mother has when she sees you struggling but knows from experience that it will work out for you and she’s not going to help.

Now, this whole idea of talking to God might frighten some of you.  Don’t get stuck on it.  I’m sure there are plenty of you who talk to yourselves in your head (or out loud).  I prefer to think I’m talking to someone, so I pick God.  You don’t have to.  Do it however you like.  All I’m saying is that I’m sure you’ve been at that place where you just want to stand in the middle of a room and scream into the air for someone to help you.  I used to have that feeling (and sometimes still do).  Only now I’ve realized there’s something good in all of this, and it’s just not my time to see it yet.  And that’s where I need this patience that I find so elusive.

Well, the apartment thing, like lots of other things in my life, worked out – just not on my time line.  A few weeks before my lease was up, with not a roommate in sight, my father found out an old family friend had an opening for a tenant at an apartment he rents out.  My dad called him (unbeknownst to me) and said “I hear you’re apartment is available.  I’ve got a question for you.  Really think about this.  Who would be your ideal tenant?” my dad asked.  Without prior knowledge I was looking for a place, the response given was “Your daughter.”  My dad laughed.  I had my apartment.

I have no secret for how to get this patience thing down.  However, there is some consolation in believing it will work out.  And that rarely does it work out on my time line.  I just need to be reminded of this sometimes.  And just when I need the reminder, I get an e-mail in my inbox….

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