Practicing Patience: One Possible Practice to Help Us Observe a Holy Advent
From time to time EHM will be inviting people to be a guest blogger. Before Advent starts please enjoy a blog by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, creator of Living Compass:
I believe that one of the core components of living a holy life, a life characterized by wellness and wholeness, is learning to delay gratification. Perhaps one of the clearest ways to understand this is to consider how easy it is to compromise our wellness by seeking immediate gratification. Eating whatever we want, whenever we want, will negatively affect our physical wellness. Reacting immediately when were are flooded with anger will almost always compromise both our emotional and our relational wellness. Giving in to the urge to buy more all the time rather than learning to save will compromise our financial wellness. Seeking quick and easy answers from God to our prayers and questions rather than learning to rest and “trust in the slow work of God” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) will diminish our spiritual wellness.
At the heart of learning to delay gratification is learning to practice patience. In a culture that glorifies immediate gratification, learning to wait is countercultural. This makes practicing patience a perfect practice for Advent, because observing the season of Advent itself is countercultural. Our culture’s emphasis on immediate gratification increases tenfold as we rush full-speed ahead into the Christmas season. We are encouraged to give into all of our impulses to eat more, do more, drink more, and buy more this time of year. The season of Advent provides us with the space we need to make countercultural choices, choices that will help us prepare for the true meaning of Christmas.
One place to start is practicing patience is with ourselves. If we are loving and gracious with ourselves, that is likely how we will be with others. If we are critical and judgmental of ourselves, that is likely how we will be toward others. The same is true with being patient. The degree to which we are patient with ourselves is likely the degree to which we will be patient with others. It is hard to give others what we cannot give ourselves. The timeless wisdom in the calling to love our neighbors as ourselves reveals that this is exactly what we do when we treat our neighbors the same way we treat ourselves.
One of the foundational principles of our Living Compass Wellness ministry is, “Whatever we pay attention to is what will grow.” If we pay more attention to what annoys us about ourselves or someone else, then our impatience with ourselves or that other person will grow. If, instead, we pay more attention to what is good and what we appreciate about ourselves or someone else, then our patience with ourselves or that other person will grow. We invite you to practice paying attention to what delights you about yourself and others, and then see if your patience grows.
During the holiday season, when emotions tend to run high, we may find ourselves being irritable or short with those close to us. We may also have opportunities to practice patience with friends and family members who we don’t see that often. When we feel that others are trying our patience, it is wise to remember that “Whatever we pay attention is what will grow.” The choice to practice patience this Advent season (or not) is ours.