“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
No one likes to wait. I have had a lot of experience with patience and waiting in recent years, owing to some spiritual growth that has enabled it. Up until about four or five years ago, I had just as many opportunities to practice patience, but I did not have the spiritual development to support it. I tended to fret, to worry about getting things to go a certain way, and to agonize about how I could best adjust, control, and manipulate various situations to bring about my vision of rightness, of justice, or to deliver some sense of ultimate satisfaction. I felt the pressure to make things happen, to make my life look the way I felt it needed to look, and I was not about to sit around calmly and wait for things to shape up. Of course thoughtful, intentional and wise action is vital, and many times there are actions I need to take to produce positive change in my life and in my family’s life. But there are plenty of situations that are essentially out of my hands, that are someone else’s purview, and that I cannot control. In these situations, I have learned to be still: to quiet myself down, and to “adopt the pace of nature.” I’ve learned to wait. I have learned to trust. And, as a result, I am seeing miracles happen.
We have only to step outside our doors, or for many of us, to glance outside our windows, to access one magnificent meditation on patience. So much in the natural world resists hurry. It is one reason why trees are such restful beings. Their rootedness and their slow transformations whisper to us that our impatient, frenetic lives only burn us out. In quiet strength and stillness, trees silently suggest, “Everything in its time.” In their longevity, trees are the embodiment of Aesop’s proverb, “Slow and steady wins the race.”
Trust enables the patience required to downshift and rest instead of constantly micromanaging our lives and the lives of others. German priest, Martin Luther, observed a bird perched on a twig and came away with a lovely reflection on nature, contentment, and trust:
One evening when Luther saw a little bird perched on a tree, to roost there for the night, he
said, ‘This little bird has had its supper, and now it is getting ready to go to sleep here, quite
secure and content, never troubling itself what its food will be, or where its lodging on the
morrow. Like David it, ‘abides under the shadow of the Almighty.’ It sits on its little twig
content, and lets God take care” (Daily Strength for Daily Needs, Tileston, 2006).
I am learning to be like that bird.
A few areas of my life had been crying out for change in recent years, financially, personally, and at work, but I found that only the slow road would get me where my Higher Power wanted to take me. I discovered that waiting works. I do what I can to improve circumstances and relationships, but then I let go and trust when there is nothing further I can change myself. I find myself more habitually living out the wisdom in Proverbs 3:5 which advises, “Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.” My ability to do this is a miracle in itself.
These days I find that adversity, while unpleasant, is also an opportunity to test spiritual growth and to strengthen spiritual foundations. My experience affirms the observation of German Lutheran reformer Philip Melanchthon that “trouble and perplexity drive us to prayer, and prayer driveth away trouble and perplexity.” The very situations that have caused such agitation and frustration in recent years have led me to pray and to practice trusting and waiting. Bishop (and Catholic saint) Francis De Sales admonishes us, “Take courage, and turn your troubles, which are without remedy, into material for spiritual progress.” I have witnessed the exquisite unfolding of answered prayers, and I can join the Psalmist in declaring in Psalm 34:4, “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
Can you discern any areas of your life where you desire change but know you have done all you can, and the rest is out of your hands? How can coming into a place of trust help you to access the patience you need to wait for all things to be worked out in their time? It is unpopular to wait. People can be scathing in their criticisms of someone who remains still and patient while in distress instead of getting up and making something happen, but nature teaches us another way. How can reflecting upon nature assure us that waiting calmly for resolution and for a new season is not only all right, but often the best way?