Tent Patience

Love is patient. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience… – Galatians 5:22

My son Ro and I walked through miles of sunshine. We walked through thunderstorms and rainstorms that drenched us from head to toe. Each step we took we heard the squishy sound of water in our shoes as we walked up trails that flowed like creeks. I had gout on my right big toe. Ro had blisters on each of his heels after he raced up a hill with some other twenty-something through-hikers.

“Why did you go so fast Ro?” I asked. “I wasn’t going to let some flatlanders (hikers from the plains or the east coast) beat a native Colorado kid up a pass.” “O.K., at least we have some moleskin.”

After eight or nine days on the Colorado Trail with all its joys, surprises, trials, and tribulations, I asked Ro, “How are you doing with everything?”

“I’m pretty good other than my blisters, and I really need to work on my tent patience, a lot.”

“Tent patience? What is tent patience?” I asked in bewilderment.

Ro and I shared an ultra-light Big Agnes tent at night. “What’s wrong with our tent?” “Nothing,” Ro said. “It’s you.” “Me? What’s wrong with me?”

“Well, when you’re really tired you snore really loud all night long and there’s nowhere for me to go.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t help that.” “And you get up two or three times a night to go to the bathroom. You wake me up. Then you bump into me when you crawl out of the tent.”

“I’m sorry.” “And you fiddle around forever with the tent zippers trying to get them open.” “Sorry. O.K. Let’s move on.” “And sometimes you leave the tent and the rain fly open and the mosquitoes get in.”

“Sorry, I didn’t want the sound of the zippers closing to wake you.” “I’m already awake, Dad. It’s too late. And if the bugs don’t come in, the rain comes in and gets everything wet.” “Oh, I see.”

“So, I need to work on my tent patience,” Ro said. “If I used my flashlight, I could see the zippers.” “Dad, I just need to work on my tent patience.”

Love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4) and patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It is a virtue that gives us peace and brings calm to situations. How patient are we? What does it mean to have faithful patience?

“Life, as we can all attest to, is not without its bitter frustrations and crushing heartaches,” says Father Ron Rolheiser. We lose patience when our children lose their coat for the hundredth time, and we lose patience when our aging parents cannot find their keys, or we must explain things to them repeatedly.

We get frustrated when our children do not get the help they need at school. We lose our patience and get angry when nothing seems to change. We lose patience when an old man is looking for a coupon when checking out his groceries and we must wait and wait. We get impatient with world leaders who treat people like expendable pawns. When we lose our patience, which is very human, anger is the fruit.

When we lose our patience, how often do we say, “Why did I say that? Why did I do that?” And our words or actions cause more harm, and we pray for forgiveness and more patience.

Love is patient, so God is patient. Jeffry Bullock in Practicing Christian Patience writes, “We remember the patient practices of our God with the people of Israel.” We remember Jesus’ patience with Doubting Thomas. “Put your finger here Thomas. Look at my hands. Put your hands on my side,” (see John 20:27). Jesus meets Thomas’ doubt with faithful patience, calm assurance, and the fruit is joy.

“Christian patience carries on with humility, always prepared to listen one more time to the others’ strongly held convictions. Christian patience believes in dialog and functions in expectant change because we faithfully know God provides all the time we need and more,” writes Bullock. Patience trusts that God’s love and grace does endure.

Patience is a rock. It says, “It’s going to be alright.” “God, as an old Jewish axiom puts it, is never in a hurry!” writes Rolheiser. Or as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Change happens, but it takes a long time. Patience trusts that the Spirit is working through the world, the church, and us for peace and unity. And patience is active not passive. We become the change we want to see.

“Faith is patience,” writes Rolheiser. “Atheism is impatience.”

“I need to practice my tent patience,” Ro said. “So, do I Ro.” Aren’t we all living under the same tent? Wouldn’t all of us like to cultivate more patience?

“In the face of so much modern turmoil, the church’s practice of patience can offer us the way forward in hope,” writes Bullock. May we breathe deep, listen, trust the Spirit, and act with faithful patience.

Blessings, peace, and patience,