Patience, right now, is in short supply. As so many have been faithful to pray for my wife’s health, and for the emotional weight on the rest of the family, I find my own peculiar weaknesses growing worse. My fuse, which in the best of times is measured in inches rather than yards has gone metric, and is now measured in millimeters. I have a house full of eight children whose lives have been turned upside down. They are struggling with fear and uncertainty, but most of all they miss their mom. They aren’t thinking, “Wow, this must really be hard on dad. We will bend over backwards to make this difficult time for him easier. We will play quietly, get along like angels and put away our toys the moment we finish with them.” No, they’re thinking, “Our lives are being turned upside down. And to top it all off, Dad’s fuse has shrunk to a new low.” Which is a decent approximation of what I’m thinking. Someone needs to find more patience, and as strange as it may seem to me, I am the most likely candidate.
Patience, I believe, comes with self-awareness. That is I will be more gracious toward the hardships of others as I note how hard the hardships are for me. The very shrinkage of my fuse is a clue to tell me why my almost two- year old keeps having these fingernails-on-a-chalkboard meltdowns. Moments ago he was in his highchair, well equipped. Dry pants- check. Milk cup- check. Delicious quiche made by friends- check. So why was he crying, screeching, skipping rope on my last nerve?
The devil had a good laugh at my expense. I responded with all the grace of a Steeler linebacker. I told the crying toddler through clenched teeth, smoke streaming out of my ears, to quit the crying, and now. I gruffly filled his mouth with quiche, and that, of course, calmed him right down. He saw that he was in sin, and contrite, became as quiet as a church mouse and spoke his first complete sentence- Thank you father for the delicious breakfast, ever so sorry to be troubling you with my crying. Will try harder. Pip pip.
Well, no, that’s not what happened. Instead Donovan looked deep into his reserves and found the strength to cry harder, despite a mouthful of quiche. Now what? How can I possibly fix this? And that’s when the Holy Spirit stopped the braying laughter of the serpent. The Spirit reminded me of what we are to do when we sin against a brother. I drew near to my son, and I repented. I asked Donovan, and our Father, to forgive me. It was as if He were trying to teach me something because as soon as I repented, Donovan became quiet.
Repentance, I am persuaded, is good for what ails us. It heals strained relationships. It cultivates patience. It taps into the infinite strength of God most high. It teaches me who I am, not the helpless victim of a crying toddler, but the source of the crying of my child, a helpless victim of an impatient father. God have mercy on my children.