We lived two years in a rustically renovated barn while we built our house, paying for it as we went. There were six of us, four of whom were under 11, two significantly so.
The most frequent comment I heard, when the subject of my living in a barn came up in casual conversation, was,
“Oh, I would never have the patience to do that!”
And while patience is tirelessly extolled as a virtue, somehow every person managed to infuse the sense that there was something oddly wrong with me for being so . . . patient. I mean, nobody else on the planet could do what I was doing, so there must be something wrong with me for my extreme, over the top, beyond what Jesus could do, patience.
(This is the same reaction high school students employ toward the reader and thinker of the class — “Oh, you’re so . . . smart!”)
Let me disabuse any of you, right now, of the notion that I am patient. I’m American, after all, which means I like waiting about as much as I enjoy cleaning hair out of the sink traps, and at birth, I was not gifted by God or fairy godmother by an extra dose of long suffering serenity. Actually, I think the bottle got knocked over and some of my portion spilled out onto the coffee table. (Until I had kids, I considered myself a fairly patient, agreeable sort of person; one night of a crying baby forced me to review my interpretation of myself; as the number and age of children increased, they joined me in assessing my tolerance level, with the universal concurrence that it’s relatively low.)
But you know what? I am not the only impatient person on this planet. We all are, to some degree, some of us having finessed our soft happy voice and expression of peace to an art form, but given the right circumstances, we all snap. While my living in a barn for two years was a choice, because I wanted to live many years more in a house that was paid for, it wasn’t easy sharing 1,000 square feet with six people, taking baths in a large plastic toy storage container, and washing dishes in a 1950s sink with a six-inch depth. When we weren’t working, we were building the house. Two years seemed like a long, long time.
“But it was your choice.”
Sometimes, seriously, it’s better just to nod our heads sagely and say nothing.
Whether or not what we’re doing is our choice, life happens — or actually, appears not to happen — and we spend a lot of time waiting: when you’ve lost your job, there’s only so much paperwork you can do applying for another one; the rest of the time is waiting. When you’re handed a bad medical diagnoses, there’s treatment of some sort, but most of the time is spent waiting for it to work, or not. Relationships? You’re up; you’re down, but anyone who has a phone and a new boyfriend/girlfriend knows that you spend more time waiting for a text or a call than you do talking.
You wait. You pray. You ask God to Do Something. And you wait. And wait. And wait. And while you keep living — believe me, if you don’t put up the sheetrock on your walls, no one’s going to volunteer to do it for you — what you really want to happen, the answer to your prayer, seems to take a long time.
Waiting is a universal part of human existence, and God understands this. Psalm 37:7 says,
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.
I can honestly say that of the ten words in this verse, I have spent eight years doing one of them — and it isn’t “patiently.”
You can’t quit. You can’t walk away. You can’t say, “That’s it. I’m done playing now.” When things are out of your hands, they are in His.
So add the rest of the nine words, not the least of which is the first two: be still. Rest. Breathe. Stop freaking out. Truly, trust This Guy. We live in a society of people who Do Things, but sometimes, the one and only thing God is asking us to do is nothing. Just wait.
I’m workin’ on it.