I have been an impatient person for as long as I can remember. I guess I picked up this dubious quality from my father, who would often stand at the front door 20 minutes before we were supposed to leave for somewhere, looking like a bobblehead doll as he repeatedly checked his watch. When he was demonstrating something new, like how to use a rotor tiller or drive a stick, he would give me the chance to do it and then bellow if I did it wrong — which, according to him, was every time. Though my dad loved baseball, when he was teaching something, he didn’t believe in the three-strike rule. Usually it was two strikes and then he would give up, storming away and muttering things that could not be repeated in the Priscilla and Aquila Sunday School class.
A few days ago, during a flight from Atlanta to DFW, I had a golden opportunity to channel my father. I’m not a big fan of flying, anyway. Waiting in lines, undressing before TSA agents and soaring above terra firma like a sardine in a can is not on my list of top amusements.
The flight took off at 1:30 EST and was supposed to take an hour and 45 minutes. Because I just used the words “supposed to,” you know it did not take an hour and 45 minutes. No, this jolly adventure took over five hours.
First we diverted to Little Rock because of violent thunderstorms in the Dallas area. There we waited on the tarmac for over an hour while the flight attendants served cups of lukewarm water and everyone on the plane decided to storm the lavatories at once. When we finally got back into the air, which was akin to gliding over a spacious washboard studded with small boulders, the captain informed us that we would have to fly south and make an end-around the storm. A normal flight from Little Rock to DFW takes about an hour. But because we had to practically fly into Central America to get around Mother Nature’s crankiness, the second leg of our flight took about two-and-a-half hours. When we finally landed, it was getting dark and my tummy told me it was time for more than complimentary peanuts and club soda.
Amazingly, the ghost of my dad didn’t float up once through my words or actions. I had a good book, music on my iPhone and my best friend, my wife, as my traveling companion. I reminded myself that there was not a blasted thing I could do about the weather. And once, when I felt Father Hulk stirring inside me to get out, I mentally ticked off a few of my blessings, which calmed him down.
The Bible tells us that the fruit of the Spirit includes “forbearance” (Gal 5:22 NIV), which can also be translated as patience, steadfastness, perseverance, endurance and, in the delightful parlance of the King James Version, “longsuffering.” The original biblical word combined “long” and “heart” (or soul). For me, this conjures up a picture of a marathon runner who, despite hardship, keeps one foot in front of another with the finish line in mind.
Now, before you think the plane experience was an anomaly, I’ve noticed I have become more patient in other areas, too. And to think, it’s taken God almost six decades to get me to this point, which makes me appreciate the fact that He is far more patient than I ever will be.
“At the bottom of patience one finds heaven.” — West African proverb