Thursday, October 11, 2007
Of Impatience, Intolerance, and Intensity
If patience were the only fruit of the Spirit, I would likely spend my life in a decidedly fruitless state. One definition of impatience is intolerance, as in “impatient of delay.” Another definition is “eagerly desirous,” as in an intensity of yearning. So I ask myself in my current impatient state: where is the place where my intolerance meets my eager intensity?
I am intolerant of pain, and so I try to be busy enough to not have to notice it. I am eagerly desirous of doing something meaningful with my life. Perhaps the place where intolerance meets intensity is the place those two desires are in conflict. What if my way of doing something meaningful throws me into the path of pain (as it almost certainly will)? Or what if I am not able to do something meaningful until I slow down enough to accept, even welcome, the pain or the lack of purpose I sometimes feel?
I love to write about the redemption of suffering, love to write about doubt and darkness and the search for meaning within it. But the fact is, for all my many words, I find myself so often feeling bewildered by life and confused about what to do next. Maybe in the end, what I’m most impatient with is myself. But you can’t will yourself to be less intense, can’t will yourself to be less critical of yourself—or at least if you can, I’m lousy at it. So what do I do? Today, I found an answer in my dog.
One minute, his entire being is focused on finding a way through the fence to see what is on the other side and he is totally and completely intolerant of delay. But all I need to do is call his name, even softly, and in a split-second it’s as if the fence never existed and all he can see is me, his joy expressed in an eager thrashing of his tail as he jumps up to greet me. His intensity is focused, but also amazingly flexible. There will always be something else. Whether the depths are of pain or purpose, why not find your patience in what is most present and stay with it as long as you can?