We’re in a big hurry in this life. From almost the moment we’re born, we are taught to not waste time. Often well intentioned, we fill our days with every imaginable effort to better ourselves and the world. That sounds like a good thing. Is it?
I believe the commitment to using our time wisely is indeed a good thing. So often, we do waste our time, our lives. So often, we wait too long to share how we feel, to reach out, to learn a new skill, to risk failure, to reach for our dream. Many spend their non-working hours binge watching Netflix and endlessly scrolling through social media. A blessing occurs when a wake up-call beckons us out of our daze.
I also believe that this wake-up call can push us into another, ostensibly opposite yet equally damaging daze. The daze of control. Or of control-seeking. The daze of believing we can master this thing called life through a strategic series of choices mixed with a heavy dose of will power.
The problem with the second daze is that it renders us no less out of touch with reality if taken to an extreme. It is indeed a good and holy thing when one realizes they are worth more than binging the next series, when they realize their time is too precious to waste, when they realize their relationships deserve their full person.
However, humans are not creatures that easily hold the virtue of temperance. If something is good, then more must be better. If a Pilates class is good, then fourteen weekly classes must be better. If reading a novel is good, then out-reading all your friends must be better. If learning an instrument is good, than learning three must be better.
This attitude has created a culture of runners. Sprinters, even. While all of these worthy endeavors are indeed worthy, they need to be considered within the life of the person endeavoring to do them.
What is my point in living the way I live? What do I seek to accomplish for myself?
If what I’m trying to accomplish is to place value on my time and my life, and my stance is one of frolicking, then I believe I am endeavoring wisely, joyfully, according to my purpose.
If what I’m trying to accomplish is to achieve a happiness I haven’t yet discovered, then I dare say a truth our culture hasn’t fully realized: my happiness won’t be found there.
If this is what I’m doing, then my stance is not one of frolicking, but one of sprinting. Sprinting toward a better life than this one. The speed gives away one’s stance. How desperate am I to be someone else? To live a different life?
The antidote to both of these dazes is love. We were created to love ourselves, love others, love God, and enjoy all that has been given us. If I spend my life in the first daze, never looking up from my phone, I do not have love. Not for myself, not for others. I don’t even see them.
And, if I spend my life sprinting toward something different, not with joy and curiosity, but in bitter insistence that I be different, I have not love.
Many of us know the passage from 1 Corinthians 13 about love.
Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not envious, or boastful, or arrogant, or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It keeps no record of wrongdoing…
It’s a comprehensive list. Individuals, couples, families, and friends would so well to study it. However, it’s breadth sometimes causes us to miss that very first, important sentence. It’s easy to skip over patience to get to the “good stuff.” The stuff that says we can’t hold onto grudges and the like.
But love is Patient first.
Before everything else, love is patient. This is, for me, the hardest thing on St. Paul’s list. To be patient with myself as I take longer to reach a goal than I wished – that is self love. Love is not quitting altogether. But neither is love harshly berating myself into submission.
Jesus tells us all of the law and the prophets can be summed up in one sentence: Love God with all your heart…and love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-40). And St. Paul says that if we need a how-to on what that means, above all else, he said “be patient.”
We don’t have to sprint. It would be wonderful if we would. But if we do not have love right where we are, for ourselves, for what we have, we won’t find it after a 100-yard dash toward our goal. Love the journey. Be patient. First. Everything else will follow.
Like the birds that frolic here in Boston Common today, where I’m writing, May we patiently and joyfully live into our best selves.