By guest author Marcie Watkinson
Young children are not known for their patience. Adorable, funny, cute, smart, mischievous, observant, talkative, shy, sensitive, and outgoing are all words to describe little ones, but not “patient.” Mine want their breakfast the moment their sweet heads rise off their pillows in the morning. Going to the bathroom is suddenly a huge emergency as soon as they discover someone else is using it (never mind the fact that we have two more bathrooms upstairs that the needy individual could easily use).
They ask ever so kindly if they could play with a toy when their sibling is finished with it, but if the particular sibling is not finished in about twenty seconds, the kindness disappears and frustration takes its place.
From the twenty-month-old who wants his food to appear (at the correct temperature) the second he climbs into his chair and wants down the second he decides he is finished to the six-year-old who snaps angrily at her brother when she has to ask her question again because he didn’t understand it the first time, the words “be patient” can be heard ringing through our walls quite often during the course of the day.
As I was talking to my kids the other day about the famous passage about love in 1 Corinthians 13, we realized that the very first word God uses to describe love is “patient.” Love is patient! Being patient is what love is all about. This was a grand realization to us all. I have had that verse memorized since I was a small child, but I don’t think I have stopped to think about what those words actually mean in quite some time.
The other thing that stopped me in my tracks was thinking about who models patience for my children. Where do they see patience acted out on a daily basis? From each other? No. Not so much (as was noted in my previous description). From their father? He is indeed an extremely patient man, for which I am so thankful, but he is also at work much of the day, so he is not their primary influence. From others outside the home? We have some magnificent friends, and it is a joy to be around them. However, especially since we homeschool, we do not spend the majority of our time with these individuals.
The primary model that my children have is simply ‘me.’ I am the one they are observing and listening to as they try to figure out this thing called patience. I am the one they are around nearly 24/7 and the one who is continually reminding them that they should show love to one another. This realization helped me so much in understanding why they are not more patient with one another.
Practicing patience must be more challenging for them when they hear things like, “I have already told you three times …” or the heavy sigh, or the annoyance that creeps into my voice when I have to repeat myself. It grieves my heart to type those words and to know that I have been impatient with my kids so very many times over the past years.
Of course, they are responsible for their own actions, and it is possible, through God’s grace, for them to choose to be patient no matter how impatient I am. However, would it not be easier for them if they were surrounded by a patient attitude and patient words on a daily basis? More importantly, if patience was my goal, they would receive a more accurate view of the character of God, and He would be brought glory in far more situations.
One verse that has meant a lot to me regarding the sin of impatience is 1 Peter 4:8: “Love covers a multitude of sins” (Love is patient!) I don’t have to get annoyed and irritated by every sin my children commit, the mistakes they make, or the inconveniences they may cause. They are individuals in desperate need of grace, just as I am. What a privilege it is to patiently point them, moment by moment, to a Savior who can love them with a perfectly patient love.