Patience

Howard RittenhouseChaplain’s Corner

Padre Howard Rittenhouse

I am not the most patient person. This may come as a shock to those of you who know and tolerate me. I have to admit I have often daydreamed while troops sat in my office telling me about their problems, issues, stubbed toes, bruised egos, mashed expectations, deflated dreams, and the general lack of unicorns in the military life.

Sorry. That came out badly. This sounds as though I have no patience for the real needs of members and/or their families. That’s not true. But it’s all too easy for any of us (even a padre) to become impatient with our family, our spouse, our job, our posting, our workmates. And I’m as prone to that as anyone. Ask my wife (on second thought – don’t).

But impatience is part of our culture. We’re used to receiving everything at once: microwave meals, pizza, cell phone reception, approval. Have you ever found yourself shouting at your computer because Google was taking sooooooooooooo long to open the next page, or because the YouTube video featuring kittens (kittens!!) took an extra 30 seconds to load? I know you have because I have.

Of course, impatience is like a pair of rats: the next thing you know there are 100 rats. In other words, impatience breeds more impatience. We find ourselves dissatisfied with more and more things and people. Quick service at the restaurant isn’t good enough; it must be instantaneous. PT and that wonder powder must achieve muscles like Schwarzenegger in a week rather than a year. Talking to the padre about one’s relationship must result in marital bliss yesterday rather than realizing that things have been fractured for so long it’s going to take just as long (or longer) to work them out.

(I sense some of you are wondering what my point is: just be patient!)
What makes so many things in life (marriage, work, family, faith, health, friends) more difficult than perhaps they need to be is what the author Gore Vidal analyzed as “today’s passion for the immediate and the casual.” We’re all in a hurry. We all want short cuts. We’re all impatient for results. And we don’t want to work for it. Heaven forfend!

But the things that really matter (marriage, work, family, faith, health, friends) aren’t made in a day, aren’t grown in a minute, aren’t slapped together like a piece of Ikea furniture (that you’ll only have to return next week because it broke or is missing a part. And what is it about Ikea, anyway?! Does it mean “utter crap” in Swedish? Sorry. Sorry. Back to my point). They take effort and time; they need to be nurtured and cared for; they need devotion and attention.

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche saw this area (if few others) with great clarity: “The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is … that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” It’s this “long obedience in the same direction” which our society and culture does so much to discourage. Impatience fits as well with this “long obedience” as a Bieber fan at a Black Sabbath concert. Practice this “long obedience in the same direction” – the things in life that matter are worth it.

howard.rittenhouse@forces.gc.ca