My daughter calls herself “the flower girl.” She loves walking around our garden and picking flowers to share with the fairies or to turn into a stew. She especially enjoys collecting the petals of roses that are just past their prime and showering them on her mother and me. The other day she spied a rose bud that was still bunched tightly and began to try to pry it open so she could smell the fragrance and then collect the petals. I stopped her before she could pull it off, and took the opportunity to explain to her that you can’t force a bud to open or it kills the flower before it can blossom. She relented and we continued our garden tour. The experience got me thinking about the value of patience.
We live in a time that is greatly influenced by speed and convenience. Computers have made most everything available at the touch of a button. The global economy has made it possible to have fresh, summer fruit in the middle of winter. While it serves to give us more of what we want when we want it, it comes at a cost: we are quickly losing the ability to wait. Like a muscle that atrophies when it is no longer used, patience is disappearing in the modern age. Even when we are forced to wait, we rarely watch the clouds, listen to the birds, or introduce ourselves to the person sitting next to us. Instead we play games on our phones, check social media, or do a little online shopping. We are constantly finding ways to pull our attention somewhere else to make the waiting feel “less boring.” Patience doesn’t necessarily mean that we just sit and do nothing. Sometimes patience means getting ourselves ready to receive whatever it is we are waiting for. If we are waiting for the right time to plant a seed, we should make sure that the weeds have been pulled and the garden is ready for planting.
“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.” Arnold H Glasgow
If we distract ourselves to mask the wait, sometimes we miss an opportunity to discover a new perspective on an old idea. If we are waiting with something in mind it becomes a period of incubation where new ideas arise; new thoughts are often born of the space that exists between things. If we are always rushing from one place to another, from one thought to another, there is less of a chance for things to unfold in an organic and living manner. We cast away the ability to stay present in the living moment, always chasing something that is of another time and place. It is as Henri Nouwen says: “A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”
After our experience with the rose, my daughter and I continued our garden walk. We came across some firewood that I had cut to dry earlier in the year–which I started to stack in the back of the woodshed–when my daughter wisely advised me: “Let the wood dry in the sun or it won’t make a good fire. Just be patient daddy.” My impulsive, headfirst flower girl again proved herself to be my greatest teacher.