About an hour into running errands this past Saturday, it was clear what the Lord wanted me to learn that day.
It was so clear to me, in fact, that the delays, nuisances, and snags in the rest of my day were not only surprising, they almost became… funny.
I see you, Lord. I accept.
It started when a relatively straight-forward trip to order an appliance took well over an hour because of a few mistakes from a nice store worker. I could have bitten off his head, and don’t think I wasn’t tempted. I could have grumbled under my breath, and don’t think I didn’t start. But what would that have really gotten me? He was flustered and apologetic. Did he waste an hour of my time? You could look at it that way. But the Lord used that hour for something better.
To teach me patience.
You see, virtues can only be learned by practicing them. A virtue is “an habitual and firm disposition to do the good” (CCC 1803). It is important to note that first adjective. Habitual. If I am virtuous, it does not mean that I did something good once. It means it is my inclination.
This does not mean that I will never sin again, of course. But for the person who has acquired the virtue of honesty, their initial response in a situation is to tell the truth. They are not inclined to lie. The patient person does not get angry when someone in front of them is driving five below the speed limit. It does not bother them. It is not that they held their tongue once. It is that their inclination, their tendency, their status quo is not to get angry.
This takes work. The muscle can only be strengthened if it’s used.
I always (inwardly) chuckle when a young mom tells me that she once was a patient person, but then she had kids. Guess what? You probably weren’t patient then. You just weren’t given a chance to use the virtue. The same can be said prior to marriage. After marriage, you wonder where that patience went. You probably never had it! It wasn’t that you lost the virtue. You just weren’t tested before.
So after the hour-long adventure with the store clerk, I went to the gas station. I thought I chose the shortest line. Ha! Guess what? The lady in front of me struggled with the pump and needed to call the manager over. Of course.
The next store found me behind a person writing a check which required manager approval. At this point, I told God he was being pretty obvious with this lesson. But obvious is good, because I’m a slow learner. (Or maybe I’m just… impatient.)
Each time, I held my tongue, smiled when I didn’t feel like it, embraced the fact that my day might not be as “productive” as I had planned. Or maybe it was simply productive in different ways. In God’s ways.
Growing in virtue isn’t complicated. Now, that’s not to say it’s easy! It’s hard. But it’s not complicated. It is found in our everyday lives, running errands and dealing with the tasks on our to-do list.
Don’t misunderstand or misjudge me… for every day like Saturday, there are six other days of me losing my temper, complaining, and chucking my peace out the window. Saturday didn’t make me a patient person. But with the grace of God, maybe I’m on my way… slowly. I just need to have patience with myself, too.
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