Downgrading My Patience Rating

I can be a remarkably patient father for about three minutes.

In fact, for a certain time period of my life, I thought of myself as someone who was always patient, and that streak lasted 23 years, until I got married. I have a wonderful wife, so that's not an insult to her, but rather just a statement with which anyone who's ever been married to an actual human being can probably identify. Any self-illusions that we are patient and selfless people get thrown out the window when we marry someone and our selfishness suddenly can't find anywhere to hide.

So after getting married, I downgraded my own patience rating from outstanding to above average. That lasted exactly seven more years, until the day I became a parent. The patience rating took another major hit three years later when the second little one came along. Now, I find myself in the same patience class as Bobby Knight and the Tazmanian Devil.

I'm reminded how much I deserve this low patience rating each time my kids get dressed. It's amazing how close the wrestling match can be between my 6'7" body and that of my 19-month-old daughter when trying to put a shirt on her. And my four-year-old might hold the world, olympic, and Texas state records for longest time getting dressed. I never cease to be amazed by how many other things can catch his attention between getting the first and second arms through their sleeves.

The most humbling part of it is that whenever I watch him in the height of his dilly-dallying and he exceeds that patience limit, I know I'm staring at myself. It isn't just that I see so much of myself in him that I'm sure I was just like that at four years old, but I see so much of my 34-year-old self in the things he does at this age. I get frustrated at his distractions, then fifteen minutes later (by which time he might have his head through the appropriate hole in his shirt), I've probably told my wife, "Okay, I'll be right there," only to get distracted by five or six other things on the way to whatever it is I said I'd do.

Thanks be to God that his patience lasts more than three minutes! In this year-long experiment in prayer, I'm enjoying the luxury of carving out time each day to do nothing but be with God, and when I do so, my distractions affect me so much that I'm well aware how much my attempts at being with God are like my little boy's attempts at trying to get dressed. My attention flies from one thing to the next, but thankfully I've read some good things through the years and am convinced that God is much more patient than I am and those distractions bother me more than they bother God. And I have hope–I'm quite sure that as my son grows, the time required for him to get dressed will decrease, but nonetheless–he does end up with clothes on. So maybe my attention span will increase and I'll get better at this, but even if not, the limited attention that I can give to God as part of this experiment is surely better than none at all.


Something I've prayed this week:

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Prayer for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany from The Book of Common Prayer)

[This is 18th post from A Year of Living Prayerfully.]