Friday, February 16, 2007

pondering patience...

As I sat in my car waiting for the light to change and let me out of the Gold’s Gym parking lot, I haphazardly flipped through the radio stations trying to find some song that fit my mood. Settling on a local station, the DJ soon came on, announcing that the singer of the previous song had recently been seen with his “on-again model girlfriend” which was a surprise because it had been rumored he was cheating on her. The DJ declared that this made no sense, because, “If he wasn’t a musician no one would want to go out with him,” she pronounced.

I caught myself glaring at the radio, and thinking of every person listening to considered themselves “not cute” and how they must be feeling about their social status now. Apparently you need to be famous and attractive to get a date. I rolled my eyes at the cultural implications as Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There For You” began to play. The light was still red.

“If they make us sit here this long, the light should at least stay green longer,” I thought as I inched forward just in time to see the SUV in front of me slide through the intersection at a pace just slow enough to leave me stranded behind the thick white line.

Eventually, I got my chance to escape the parking lot. Heading down the hill, I was greeted by the glow of red break lights as three lines of cars stood waiting for the next light to grant them passage onto the 250 Bypass—the Road Home. The radio was momentarily eclipsed by the sound of yelling; glancing to my left at the oncoming- but-not-so-much-moving traffic, I saw a man in a green pick-up truck, window rolled down, exercising his freedom of speech. Loudly proclaiming the injustices of traffic, he used several expletives as he rolled forward about a foot. Apparently others agreed with Angry Pickup Man and a few disgruntled honks squeaked out of the cars behind me.

“Goodness. Chill out,” I breathed.

I glanced at Angry Pickup Man now directly to my left, and hypocritically thought, “If he had Jesus he’d be more patient.”

Yes, at the moment I was calming sitting in my car, grooving to a now unknown R&B song, relaxed and far from using horn to express my opinion. Seemingly patient. But I harbor a terrible habit of grinding my teeth, grunting, and yelling “GO SLOWER!” at cars in front of me. I seem to keep my inner traffic gremlin quite tame when I have passengers in the car, but once alone he leaps out and rides shotgun. This is something that surprises me daily, as I find myself exasperated that the people on the main thoroughfare don’t have the courtesy to let me turn left and don’t seem to realize how important I am at that very moment. So do not be fooled my endorphin-induced calm… I am not a patient driver.

But the small encounter with impatience did get me thinking (one of many great distractions you can use to keep the traffic gremlin quiet while sitting in rush hour traffic). Do I really want people to know Christ so that they will be more patient at a stoplight? So that horns will sound less frequently?

“Of course not,” I rebuked my own thoughts. “Being patient is more than just resisting the overwhelming urge to yell and slap the steering wheel in frustration. We wait for a lot more than a green light.”

Or do we?

Sex? Nope… the vast majority of people aren’t waiting to have sex before marriage. What’s the point? As I drove down the highway, I passed a few fast-food restaurants… we don’t wait for meals to be ready—we just grab it on our way. If we want it, we just go get it. I remembered a commercial I had seen at the gym last week for, touting the slogan “Obey your urge.” We are a desire driven culture. Is there even a place for patience within it?

“Ok, but I’m saving up for a car right now. I have to be patient because it’s going to take me about two years to have enough money to buy one,” I reasoned with myself.

I turned right onto a side street, bypassing the rows of car dealerships on Pantops Mountain.

“But if you wanted to, you could stop saving and just take out a loan, have the car the same day,” Self countered.

I came to yet another stop light—thankfully the last in my ride home—and paused across from Jak & Jill’s Diner (rumored to be the first fast-food restaurant in Charlottesville actually). “Do we appreciate the time, effort, and skill that goes into a great cuisine? Or would we rather have a hamburger and “world famous” milkshake?” I wondered. Having grown up in a family that appreciates great food, I love to enjoy a meal that’s been carefully prepared. But even today as I ran on the treadmill I was tempted by the efficiency of the Hamburger Helper commercial in front of me. When I am a wife and mother will I take the time to make homemade meals or opt for quicker options?

“Ok what about art,” I asked myself. “We still stand in front of paintings and wonder at the hours it must have taken Van Gogh or Degas to layer the paint, adding detail after detail. Masterpieces take patience.”

“Oh really?” Self cleverly countered. “Are you sure we are not just taught to value that masterpiece because of the price tag? Surely if it costs this much it is worth a lot.”

Self 2. Me 0.

Stumbling upon the realization that we value something, not for the amount of time it took to prepare or create, but simply because the monetary cost dictates its worth to us, saddened me.

Will technology’s value overshadow art in our society, not because it is masterful, but because it is expensive? Thoughts of the blue-glow of computer screens masking the shadowy beauty of Rembrandts many self portraits flooded my head.

“Is there anything for which we are willing to be patient?” I asked.

“Ah… more importantly, can you prove that anything is
worth your patience?”

Point, Self.

I made my last left turn, and drove home to microwave my dinner.