Be Patient

Patience is not my thing.  I have always struggled with patience.  This isn’t anything new to the world as there are hundreds of thousands of people who struggle with patience every day.  Recently, my lack of patience awakened me to how unbelievably stupid I could be when I let my impatience get the best of me.

My family and I took a road trip to the Midwest a few weeks ago.  I was excited to finally be taking part in a formal graduation ceremony from seminary.  Although I had technically graduated in December, this gave me the opportunity for closure (see my earlier post here).

My wife was a little skeptical.  Understandably so.  She spent more time than I did with our three children and the thought of being cooped up in a confined space with them for hours upon hours made our modest home seem like a palace, I’m sure.  Road trips can be challenging for adults, but children are harder.

We left on a Sunday after church and drove to our first destination just 6 hours away.  Everyone did all right.  We made it in one piece.  Staying overnight at a friend’s house, we planned to get on the road after lunch on Monday.  Monday morning, my friend informed me that his “muscle memory” had gotten the best of him and he had backed into our car.  He was so used to backing up without thinking and so, he did, right into our fender.impatience

A few years ago, I probably would have been more upset.  We had only had our car for a few months, but it was used and already had enough wear and tear that it didn’t seem such a big deal.  He began the process with his insurance company and I didn’t have too many worries.  We got on our way that afternoon with a little ding in our fender.

Our next destination was Music City, Nashville, Tennessee.  I was excited to finally go to Nashville.  I had only been there once before when rerouted there during a snow storm in Atlanta.  I stayed at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel for about 5 hours before having to get back to the airport to find a flight home.  I was disappointed that I didn’t actually get to enjoy the hotel or the city when I was there, so I had committed to go back.

With three children 6 and under, it’s best not to plan too much of what you think you will accomplish on a trip.  I knew that having high expectations would disappoint me if the kids didn’t comply.  I couldn’t blame them though, museums and other attractions are not always centered around such young children.  My wife and I looked through the costs of the attractions and then estimated how long our two youngest would actually stay engaged.

In the end, we landed at the Parthenon (which was free to walk around and look at but cost money to go inside) and the Johnny Cash Museum.  We even took a side trip to the cemetery to see where John and June Carter were laid to rest.

As we made our way to our next destination that afternoon, I realized that my kids had been exposed to a small glimpse of Johnny Cash.  They saw where he was buried and saw some pictures of his life, even heard a little bit of his music.  But we were on a roadtrip where hours were spent in the car, didn’t it make sense to be listening to him in the car.

Ah, the beauty of smartphones.  I quickly looked up Best Buy to see whether there was a local store and whether or not that store had any Johnny Cash CDs.  Unfortunately, when I loaded my MP3 player before the trip, I neglected to have enough foresight to load all the Johnny Cash that I had at home onto it.

After successfully finding a store that had both the Johnny Cash CDs and which was not too far off the beaten path, we began our journey.  Mind you, traveling with three kids (one of whom is still in diapers) is a challenge.  They don’t all sleep, get hungry, or need to use the bathroom at the same time.  That would have been convenient, but the best thing that I could do was escort them into the bathroom to see if they had to go.  Amazing how many times they were able to go even when their reply, “I don’t need to go” was rendered at every ask as to whether or not they needed to go.

Our side trip to Best Buy grew longer and longer.  The gas stations were on the wrong side of the street.  The cheapest ones were the ones we passed a few hundred feet ago.  Hunger suddenly overtook the young ones in the car and we “needed” to stop for something.  Five minutes became ten minutes which became fifteen minutes……and so on.  Before I knew it, we were into a 30 minute detour.

My realization of what that meant in the long haul to get to St. Louis got the best of me.  As we made our way back to the highway, I spotted a fast food restaurant and decided I needed some kind of beverage to hold me over.  We quickly pulled in and I drove up to the drive through.

Now, there’s probably a separate posting in the works on the stupidity of the “2 window approach” to drive throughs.  I’m not completely sure who created this concept, but in my opinion, all it does is leave room for confusion among the many patrons that frequent these restaurants.  That being said, after placing my order, I stopped at the first window and waited.  There were two women inside, behind the glass, engaged in conversation.  They did not seem to see me or even care that I was there.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.

Since the window didn’t open for what seemed like a minute (but which was probably about 10 seconds), I decided to drive to the next window.  As I began to pull away, an angry voice came from the formerly closed window and yelled, “HEY, COME BACK!”  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.

Frustrated, embarrassed, and a little bit more behind the 8 ball than I was before, I backed up and accepted the humble apology of the trainee who had been engaged in conversation with her supervisor.  I paid, drove to the next window for the beverage, and made my way towards the exit.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.  Which exit.  In my impatience and ignorance of the area, I chose the wrong one.  As I go to make my way onto the side street, an 18 wheeler pulls in front of me, ensuring that I will not get onto the main road until the light turns green.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.

At that moment, something in me clicked and I needed to get to the highway as fast as I possibly could.  I put the car in reverse to make my way towards the other exit onto the main road.  I quickly looked, hit the gas, and then…..BANG!  I had hit something.  Was it a car?

I turned to look.  Nope.  No car there.  I tried to gauge what I had hit unsuccessfully.  As I put the car into drive to pull forward, I heard metal scraping metal.  As I looked behind me, I realized that I had backed into a lightpost.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.

Now, even more embarrassed, I made my way towards the highway with my wife gently asking me whether or not I was going to get out and look.  In my pride and foolishness, I simply said, “It’s fine, don’t worry about it.”

We made our way to the highway and as we drove, we heard a sound.  Looking in the rearview mirrors, we saw our plastic bumper flapping in the breeze.  I swallowed my pride and signaled at the next exit.  As we pulled into a gas station, I opened the door to assess the damage and as I did, I heard my wife’s door open as well.  Yup, my pride was lying on the floor.

As we walked towards the bumper, we stood there in front of it.  It seemed like it had been the perfect storm of collisions.  Although I wasn’t traveling very fast, I must have just hit it perfectly so that moving forward away from the collision did more damage than the actual collision.  With no tools but my two hands, I summoned my inmost engineer and began to figure out a way to reattach things.  Asking my wife, “What do you think?” she simply said, “We’ll see.”

The good news is that the bumper is still standing after an additional 1500+ miles.  I have yet to go to the auto body shop to get my estimate.  It could have been worse, my impatience was witnessed by my family and the attendants at that dreaded Burger King, I could have actually hit someone else.  It could have been bad enough that we had to stop our trip for repairs.  All because of impatience.

We travel through life quickly, attempting to get to the “good” sections while skipping past the “boring” parts.  The ironic thing is that we can learn more in the challenging sections.  Case in point.  My kids have now seen one of my many flaws, as has my wife (but I have the strange feeling that she’s known for quite some time).  Today is a new day though, and I have the opportunity to try to get it right this time around.  What I failed to achieve, accomplish, or perfect yesterday can be sought after today.

It’s not me in this pursuit on my own, it’s Christ in me.  And today, I hope that there is a little less of me and a little more of him.  Today, I hope that the fruits of the spirit shine through, rather than the brokenness of who I am.  And if I fail, you know the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  After all, it only takes time, right?  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.  Tick.

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