“Have patience, have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry.” These lyrics from a children’s song are forever trapped in my memory. As a teenager I was part of my church’s “Puppet Ministry.” We would hide behind a stage made of PVC pipe and thick colorful fabric while operating giant Muppet-like characters for children’s Bible study classes and Vacation Bible Schools.
I was one of the puppeteers (my guy had an enormous football-shaped head) who told a story about a dawdling slug who was always slowing down traffic. Undaunted, and moving at the only pace he was capable of, he would bellow out those lyrics above, and we teenage spin doctors behind the fabric stage would teach this song to the children.
Forever trapped in my memory? Yes. Well practiced over these many years since I first heard and sang the song? Not so much. Patience is a difficult, extraordinarily challenging disciple to practice. A year of virus-induced limitations, quarantine, and restrictions have proven as much.
Early on, as COVID-19 emerged, it was easy to preach (or sing) patience to ourselves and others. The public was so appreciative of nurses, emergency room workers, and healthcare providers. Teachers, first responders, bartenders, grocery clerks, and servers were all treated with care and concern. Closures and restrictions – while inconvenient – were begrudgingly accepted. But not anymore.
Healthcare workers are under enormous strain as coronavirus sufferers and the thousands that have avoided their doctors over the last year descend on hospitals and doctor offices like starving locusts. They are angry, demanding, and short-tempered (having needed more medical care in the last two months than any time in my life, I’ve seen this up close), even as those they accost have been through the pandemic meat grinder themselves.
Teachers, my wife is one of them, have never faced such disgruntled parents even as school systems and administrators demand more and more from their staff. The lines at grocery stores, at restaurants now reopening, at the post office, and at big box stores are inhabited by an indignant population, put on and pushed over the edge by the events of the last twelve months.
So, let’s return to the children’s class; to cartoon snails, silly puppets, and the lessons of our youth: “Have patience, have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry.” Patience is one of those eternal virtues that the Scriptures simply will not stop going on about. “Be patience in tribulation,” it says. “Don’t grow weary in doing good,” it repeats.
“Bear with one another in patience,” is the instruction. And when the Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13 begins to describe what true love is, he begins with these words: “Love is patient.” We’ve come a long way in the last year, and yes, we still have a ways to go. But we will make it with the help of a few million vaccines, several more weeks of playing it safe, and a great dose of perseverance and patience.