Proceed with Patience

Author: Diana Shellenberger

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.”—Colossians 3:12-13

There are a lot of big problems in the world, and patience is a big solution. Whether addressing societal or interpersonal problems, patience is a practice, done in stages rather than completed in one grand gesture. Depending on the nature of an offense, we can often afford to be more generous with those who are in our debt, as well with ourselves and our time. Patience can look like setting up a repayment plan, with lots of forgiveness along the way.

Of course, there are some things in life that have gone on long enough, such as injustice of all kinds, especially the racial injustice currently getting more critical attention in our country. Patience is still a key ingredient. Undoing the tightest knots is always the most painstaking.

During the pandemic, we’ve all had a lot of time on our hands, and waiting for the world to feel safe has been challenging. Since we’ve been home so much, we’ve noticed more about what’s happening in the neighborhood.

We’ve lived next door to our neighbors for 20 years. We’ve never been close, but we’ve always been cordial. Given the ease between the families, I believed they would respond well when a few years ago I brought up the issue of their dogs barking when they were away.

Their response was disappointingly defensive. “All dogs bark,” “They learned it from the dogs across the street,” and “Just tell them to shut up.” An impatient response to their denial of the problem would have been to report them to Animal Control, an option we considered. Impatience may get you what you want in the short term, but it can crowd out the possibility of peace, which is what Don and I were seeking. As tempting as it was to swiftly put an end to the barking, we ultimately realized that punishing them was only going to make matters worse. And truthfully, pre-pandemic, the barking was more tolerable because we were away from home more often.

Over the next couple of years, Don and I took a patient rather than an aggressive approach to the barking problem. It all came to a head earlier this year, when we told them one of the dogs had become so aggressive, barking and snarling at us, that we had taken to avoiding the fence when he was in the yard. That was the information they needed, because the barking finally stopped.

Now the dogs are inside much more often. They’re getting the benefit of extra time with their human pack, and the barking we do hear is less annoying. I am grateful they respected us enough to take better care of their dogs.

 God, You are eternally patient with us, as we battle each other and ourselves. May we proceed with patience in our dealings, because Your patience gives good things time to develop rather than forcing resolutions. Amen.




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