I often joke with my friends that my patience is the size of a mustard seed, and yet my life seems to consist of nothing but waiting. I always feel like I’m just waiting for my life to get started. I want to be “out there,” doing things, really making a difference, working with missionaries or teaching inner city kids.
What I learned from Mary, though, is that even when you feel like your life is finally “starting,” you still have to deal with change. Dealing with change requires as much, if not more, patience, than when you have to wait for something you want. Changes in life are not usually something we can control.
Mary had to go through a lot in a matter of months: dealing with being pregnant, traveling to Bethlehem with Joseph, giving birth to Jesus in a cave filled with animals, and then running off to Egypt in the dead of night just to make sure her child was safe from Herod. It took heroic patience for her deal with all of that. In spite of all that uncertainty, she endured. Mary was willing to wait those nine months until it was time for Jesus to arrive. She was willing to wait as she journeyed from Bethlehem to Egypt, and then stayed in Egypt until it was safe to return. Later on, she dealt with the loss of her husband, and probably lost her parents, as well as Zechariah and Elizabeth, as she raised Jesus.
You wouldn’t think that heroic patience would apply when dealing with losing loved ones. At the time that I am writing this, I have only dealt with a handful of losses. However, all of them made some impact on me. I had to deal with a classmate who committed suicide while I was in college. I still mourn for my dear priest friend, who passed away the year I graduated. I lost my grandmother and my great-aunt in the same year. Death always feels sudden to me and even though I didn’t really lose that many people, I still feel like I had to practice heroic patience as part of coping with my loss.
There’s this wonderful song from my favorite musical Hamilton called “Wait for It.” In this song, the character of Aaron Burr goes into a soliloquy about being willing to wait for the right moment. Burr endured the loss of many of his family members and wants to have his own family. In his mind, there’s a reason he’s still alive even when everyone he’s loved has passed on and he’s willing to wait to see why.
I think Mary’s most heroically patient moment was when she had to wait for Jesus’ Resurrection. It’s one thing when you have to deal with the loss of a spouse, but losing a child is nothing short of unimaginable. Mary’s patience is especially heroic when you consider that she had to watch her child suffer and endure physical and psychological pain, both from the cross and from the people jeering and mocking him, crying out for His death.
There’s a part in “Wait for It” that goes:
Death doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners and the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall
And we break
And we make our mistakes
And if there’s a reason I’m still alive
When everyone who loves me has died
I’m willing to wait for it
There are times in life where we feel like everyone else is in the fast lane, or times in our life when we feel like we are falling apart because of some kind of loss. It takes heroic patience to endure both the changes in our lives and the times in our lives when we feel like we are at a standstill. Whether it’s a sense of closure or God’s providence in a seemingly hopeless situation, we need to be willing to wait for it.
Isaiah 64:3 says “No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen any God but You working such deeds for those who wait for him.”
Be willing to wait for Him, sisters in Christ. He’s worth waiting for.
Reflect: What are you currently waiting for? Are you currently dealing with a loss or seeking God’s providence for something or both? How do you think patience plays a role when dealing with loss and with other kinds of change?
Act: Offer prayers for those who are waiting for something urgently. Pray when you get stuck in traffic or waiting in a long line. It’s a small way of practicing heroic patience.