We live in a culture where ‘speed and being fast’ are seen as values to be striven for. Some people tend to get upset when the airport security lines move at a snail’s pace, a few others give into irritation when the retail cashier takes time at the counter, quite a few get impatient when the teller at the bank is slow during business transactions, others are restless when the traffic lights at the signal takes forever to change, and there are people who are ‘lost’ when the internet is slow. In spiritual life too we want to be on a fast track. Like drive through restaurants and coffee shops, drive through prayer booths has become popular. It is not a surprise when people shop around for spiritual masters who will lead them to an instant God experience. Are we not looking for fast and immediate response to our prayers? Recently someone asked me, “Who is the patron saint for Green Card applications?”
It is in this cultural and religious milieu that another aspect of Theresa’s prayer is of great help to us in our spiritual life: ‘patience obtains all things.’ Patience is the foundation of spiritual life. It will not be an exaggeration to say that Theresa understood the need for patience in spiritual life from her own life experiences. She, like most of us, would have expected immediate results for her endeavors to bring about the needed reforms in the Carmelite Order. But it took time. She had to learn patience and let go of her desire to control things that were beyond her control. All that she could do and did was to do her part; trust and surrender to God knowing that if it is in God’s will, God will bring her work to fruition.
I am reminded of The Chinese Bamboo Tree that shows no signs of growth for the first four years but within few weeks in the fifth year it grows close to eighty feet. During the first four years the root goes deep into the earth laying a strong foundation to support the tree to grow tall. After a surgery the body needs time to heal, the farmer, having planted the seeds waits for the seeds to grow, rose buds need time to blossom forth to spread its fragrance, once a new life is conceived in a mother’s womb the zygote takes time and space to develop into a fully formed human person…
To bear fruit in spiritual life it takes time, patience, and discipline. There are no Band-Aid solutions to spiritual progress. How true is the wisdom saying of Confucius, “Cultivate the root; the leaves and branches will take care of themselves!” Patience, in spiritual life, is tantamount to cultivating the roots.
Be patient with yourself: Be patient. Roots take time to develop. Be realistic. Don’t expect immediate results. Believe and stay with the daily practice. Do your part and leave the rest to God.
Be patient with others: One who is patient with oneself will be patient with others. People are unique. Children, born of the same parents, are different. Give space and time to others to develop at their pace. People are wired differently; even spiritually. Some are fast, others are slow. Not only will the rabbit cross the finish line but even the tortoise with its speed will reach the destination. All that you can do is to set the example for the other. By the fruits of your spiritual life let others know the beauty of embracing the spiritual path. Honey does not make propaganda of itself; its sweetness attracts flies to it.
Be patient with God: One of the biggest drawbacks of spiritual life is that people want immediate gratification and response to their prayers. It is not possible to behold the light at the end of the tunnel without walking through the tunnel. As believers, often it is beyond our comprehension why God takes time to answer our prayers, delays the experience of intimacy and union with God, and lets us to experience the dark night of the soul. Let us leave God to be God and let God do what God has to do. We may not understand the reason for the delayed response. But grace will be given for those who seek sincerely. All that is expected of us is to surrender and trust in God. It is in God’s hands now. God is the doer. God is now responsible. Trust the process. Walk your spiritual path day in and day out. One day your soul will be drawn into the Triune love.
God will bless the spiritual longings of the soul; if not today, definitely tomorrow. Hope, along with patience, is the key.
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