Patience – The Fruit of the Spirit

I already know I am not the most patient individual in the world, that’s for sure! In fact, I wrote this post because of an epiphany I had about my degree of impatience following a couple of my training partners’ shocked response to my inability to listen patiently and without complaint through one annoying song at the track.

“But it’s just one song! The whole set has been good and you’re complaining about one song?”

He continued berating me in jest…

“So when you’re in the car I bet you’re the type of person to switch the radio station if a song you don’t like comes on?”

Personally I change stations each time the DJ plays a song I dislike. Yet, here’s my training partner telling me he hasn’t switched his radio station ‘for about six months’. Now that’s what I call patience….or insanity! He told me to give it a go, so I did.

When I tried out this new method of listening to the radio on my way back from practice today, do you know what happened? Nothing. I heard songs I thought I didn’t really love, but I just let it roll. And it didn’t kill me. It didn’t make me writhe in pain either. At times, the songs I didn’t love I somehow ended up humming or singing along to. When the presenter came on air to give his 1 minute of chit-chat, I didn’t get frustrated and wish he would just shut up and play the next song. I actually listened to what he was saying and I even giggled at times. I allowed myself to be filled with calm and nonchalance at the situation as opposed to frustration and anxiety about a ‘wasted’ one minute of talking rather than a song I’d heard a hundred times before.

Patience creates peace, calm and harmony.

Galatians 5:22 includes ‘patience’ amongst the ‘fruits of the spirit of God’. Across translations, patience is described in these ways: ‘longsuffering’ (KJV), ‘forbearance’ (NIV), and ‘a willingness to stick with things’ (MSG). A dictionary definition of patience describes it as ‘the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.’

Patience is relaxing and unencumbering; there’s freedom in patience because it lets go of doubt and accepts that not everything is under your control, but so what? If I hang on another three minutes through a not-so-good song I have the opportunity to listen to a good song after that. And without the stress of having switched through six radio stations hopelessly in the process.

I have to employ a great deal of patience as an athlete. I remember somebody telling me: ‘I haven’t ran a personal best since [a date ten years in the past].’ My heart skipped a beat. Then I laughed – not spitefully, but just because I couldn’t imagine competing for that long patiently waiting for my next peak performance that hadn’t yet arrived. I was shocked because it was beyond my comprehension at the time. And now, the joke is on me! It’s been almost three years and no PB. And there was my innocent/ignorant four-years ago-self laughing at such an alien prospect.

But now I am being patient (by force). Because I’ve realised that not every year will be electric – well not in the positive way you may expect it to be anyway. Failure is inevitable – and is a prerequisite to success. The past three years for me have been electric – in a bad way. In 2012 I jumped a PB of 6.80m – surpassing the Olympic A standard – but didn’t go to the Olympic Games. In June 2013 and June 2014 I suffered two serious, different injuries that required surgery, and the subsequent winters were spent in rehab.

Patience develops mental toughness. Reading Romans 12 today, I passed by one of my favourite verses in the Bible – “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.’ (Romans 12:12 NIV). Why does the Bible tell me to be ‘patient in affliction’ specifically? Because it is generally when we are going through the hard times that we require patience. Who wants to be patient in the good times? I would prefer Father Time to exercise patience sometimes so that time doesn’t rush by so fast! I’m sure you know the maxim: ‘time flies when you’re having fun’? Exactly! When you are enjoying the moment you are not thinking about patience, because it isn’t required. Patience isn’t what I think of when I think of the good times. But patience in a bad situation brings out all of your best qualities that are ordinarily reserved for the smooth ride of the highs of life.

Patience makes the bad times easier. That’s why the Bible instructs us to react in this way to ‘affliction’. I have had moody moments (many of them) during my rehab and other good-life derailments, and I have had merry moments (more of these). The hardest days are my moody days. ‘Teamwork makes the dream work’ is a phrase that comes to mind here. If my mind is at odds with my body; if it is fighting against itself with a sour disposition then it is impossible for me to thrive. Your ‘thoughts are things’, as Prentice Mulford brought back to my attention. And your thoughts are powerful. Being patient produces thoughts of calm and peace, that allow for free-flowing positivity in your life. Being impatient conjures, for me, the image of a toddler going through their ‘terrible twos’ and stomping their feet in the store because they have been told that they have to wait until their daddy gets home with the groceries to get a cookie. (Random illustration I know.) But the point is – it ain’t pretty. And it is very annoying and unnecessary! As we grow older, we are supposed to grow out of this childish behaviour, but really some of us – including myself at times – do not. We remain frustrated by the littlest things – things in our control, and things out of our control. And generally, even those conditions outside of our control can be handled with patience. Because what other choice do you have?

Patience is preparation. You can’t truly act patiently if you know that you are unprepared for when what you are waiting for to arrive eventually does come. Be patient, but be prepared also. I can’t say that I am patiently waiting for my next PB, and then go into a competition and expect to jump far without necessary preparation. A patient person is ready and waiting to grasp the opportunity the moment it arrives.

Being impatient conjures, for me, the image of a toddler going through their ‘terrible twos’ and stomping their feet in the store because they have been told that they have to wait until their daddy gets home with the groceries to get a cookie.
Being impatient conjures, for me, the image of a toddler going through their ‘terrible twos’ and stomping their feet in the store because they have been told that they have to wait until their daddy gets home with the groceries to get a cookie.

My patience when making the decision as to who my next coach would be led me to Phoenix. If I had panicked and doubted that something great would come along, I would not be in a training environment that encourages and cultivates growth: inner growth as well as physical progress on the track and in the pit! I trusted that God would make a way, and he did. I was patient and did not rush into the wrong decision.

Don’t rush through life.In Praise of Slow’ by Carl Honoré first taught me the idea of truly appreciating my relaxed nature at times. (I have been told: ‘Abs, you’re so laid back you look like you’re lying down’.) Go slow, and see more. Just like in reality, you can appreciate the world around a lot better when you are walking through life, rather than hurriedly running through it. Slow down the pace of your life; be patient, and notice and be thankful for the positive freeness that will result!

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