Consider the story of Jesus' healing of Bartimaeus, a blind beggar who called out from the roadside. You can find it in Mark 10. In the story the disciples are impatient and dismiss the man. But Jesus calls him over and utters one of his signature healing pronouncements, "Your faith has made you well."
If we were in the crowd of disciples, trying to follow Jesus that day, we would either have been the ones who tried to shut Bartimaeus up or the ones who didn't say anything while that exclusion was happening.
In our own lives, who are we impatient with? We are impatient with people:
· for being tiresome
· for not being logical
· for trying to sneak in the side instead of waiting in line
· for asking yet again for what they've asked for before
· for not changing their tune after all these years
· for not waiting quietly
· for being indiscreet
· for having a problem that can't be solved
· for refusing to be overlooked
· for not doing "what any normal person would do"
· for not showing up on time
· for not dressing correctly
· for not filling out the right forms
· for having done something in the past that means they can't get a job now
· for having done or said something in the past that was offensive to us
· for forgetting something
· for not hearing us the first time
· for it being their own fault
What would you add to the list? Go ahead. It is easy to come up with reasons to be impatient with someone who is driving in front of you, driving up behind you, or sitting on the seat next to you. It is easy to make the list, right?
Okay, so we know that we are impatient sometimes, but surely that's not a great big deal. I mean, we attend to those in need as we can, right? And those annoying people are annoying, right? We are, many of us, busy and tightly scheduled, right? It's not really got anything to do with religion, with Jesus, or with spirituality, right?
I find it significant that Jesus in this part of the Gospel of Mark, is on his last journey. The next chapter begins the great drama of Jesus' final week with what we call Palm Sunday. Because the end is near, it should sharpen our attention to what is important enough to still be included in the story and how this is God still speaking to us.
I suggest that there is a lesson Jesus' behavior imparts in this story that matters to your life this very day. Jesus demonstrates patience instead of impatience. This alternative has two important purposes to offer you.
The first is that the practice of showing others, however annoying, the face of kindness and attention makes the world more like the kingdom that Jesus is always teaching us to live in. This story calls you to follow Jesus' lead in being kind and focused on those who we and the world tend to push aside. How will that change your next encounter with your neighbors?
The second purpose is that the practice of turning toward those who are irritating and problematic is frequently the path to spiritual growth, to unexpected experience, and to emotional maturity. What Jesus chooses to do is to drive home the message that there is something deep, something profound in our interactions with each other. Jesus chose to demonstrate and repeat how our salvation, the path to your salvation in this world, leads straight to those people with whom you are most impatient. That is the place where your growth is stunted now and your growth will flourish if you stop sending them to the back of the line.
It's tough medicine for you to take, I know. Jesus invites you to give it a chance anyway. Try to notice the next time you are impatient. In that moment, practice finding a way to move to patience. Draw your focus more directly to the object of your impatience and try to see him or her as deserving of your attention. Breathe. This is an opportunity for you to bring the kingdom of God a little more into being, today, this very day. Keep trying too, because you'll get better at it. I promise.