Monday, January 4, 2016

Patience and Perseverance, Part I

Think of a time when you successfully learned something difficult. We can probably all relate to learning to ride a bike. If you were like me, you couldn’t wait to get those training wheels off, even though you knew it would be harder and scarier to ride without them. The first couple times you pedaled off, you probably fell. If you fell hard enough to hurt yourself, you cried, and maybe said you didn’t want to try anymore. As you kept at it, you learned balance, and by the end of the day you were pedaling happily around the driveway, proudly showing off your new skill. Just think if you had given up at the first, second, or third sign of struggle: you might never have learned how to ride a bike! However, because you patiently persevered through the learning process, you were eventually rewarded with a new skill. As we get older and the skills and activities we want to learn are usually harder than riding a bike, we often doubt that we’ll ever learn, and we tend to give up too easily. A large part of our success in anything we do is the patience to try over and again, and the perseverance to keep being patient. 
These two qualities are so important, yet rather rare. For example, the person who taught me to knit showed me the basics, and I didn’t see her again for months because of where we lived in relation to each other. So, I took what I had been taught and kept moving forward, and when I had a problem, I read books and experimented to figure it out. Even after I learned a lot more, and had to start getting help from a local knit shop, I would always try to exhaust my knowledge to fix my problem instead of running straight to get help. I may have been totally confused at the pattern, but I would read it over and over until I either saw something new, or had no idea how to continue. Perseverance is going on long after you aren’t sure if you can or should. 

However, you can’t persevere through a problem for very long unless you are patient enough to keep a clear head through it all. Continuing the previous example, when I come to a problem in knitting, I have to be patient enough to go over the problem for a third or fourth or fifteenth time, even when I think I’ve already exhausted my resources. Patience is perseverance personified.

Five years ago, I went to the animal shelter at the encouragement of my friend, who said she had found me a new dog. When I brought my new dog home, I realized that she was terrified of men (which was problematic, since I have a dad and a brother). Over the next two or three years, I read training books, websites, forums, called dog experts, and tried any advice that sounded remotely sensible. For me, my dog was the personification of patience and perseverance. We almost got rid of her too many times to count, because it was hard to train and train, and still have marginal results. My dad and brother got tired of having a dog that only my mom and I could interact with. After three years of sweat and prayers and small steps forward, she has become the sweet family dog we originally wanted. Patience and perseverance from both me and my family made it all possible.

More recently, I learned some patience in the Frankfurt airport. Being eighteen, international travel isn’t always the most peaceful experience. After I disembarked the plane, I went with the flow of people, down the stairs, out the door, and onto the bus. The bus took us to the main terminal, and everyone headed straight for the big electronic flight board. Most of the people from my flight found their connecting flight and headed off; I looked for about ten minutes and still didn’t see my flight. I waffled between staring at the stupid board for a while longer, or continuing on to find someone to help me. I took a deep breath, and decided to keep looking. I decided (why didn’t I think of this sooner?!) to figure out how the board is organized. It took me just moments to see the organization, and my flight. If I had just walked away, I wouldn’t have seen my flight. However, I patiently persevered through the problem, trusting that God and I would find a solution.

Not an hour later, I emerged from the maze of stairs, trams, and security checkpoints into the A gates. I didn’t have a boarding pass, I was sweating from carrying my backpack, I was hungry and thirsty, and I had no clue what my gate number was. Finding another board, I saw my flight listed, but without a gate number. I prayed quickly, in order to quell my rising panic, and looked for somewhere to sit. Behind the board was an empty gate, so I plopped there and checked email. After looking for a map of the airport, I tried to relax, knowing (hoping) that I will find a way. I prayed again, specifically asking God that He’ll show me where to get a boarding pass, and then I head for the bathroom. Lo and behold, on the way to the bathroom, I saw an automatic boarding pass station that I had walked by at least twice previously. If I hadn’t taken the time to resist my panic and clear my head and pray, I would have been nervously wandering around in the A gates for a long time.

When I was thinking about patience and perseverance, only these three stories came immediately to mind. I have surely had many, many opportunities to show patience and perseverance, but have most certainly failed on many occasions. In fact, the times when I persevere the least are probably in the things I love most, like reading, crafting, and writing.* The good part is that we always have more opportunities to practice! Take a moment and think about your own experiences with patience and perseverance. How much more would you be learning if you had patience and perseverance?

* More on that in Part 2!