I've often thought that life is like that book, "Going on a Bear Hunt." In it, the kids go on hunt for bears and encounter obstacle after obstacle. Each time they meet one, they say, "Can't go over it, can't go under it, we'll have to go through it." It's like that with life; so many times we don't get to choose the troubles and trials that come and often, there's no way around but through.
For Family Home Evening last night, patience was the subject of our lesson. I loved reading President Dieter Uchtdorf's talk on patience given at last conference and I drew from it for the lesson.
He begins like this:
In the 1960s, a professor at Stanford University began a modest experiment testing the willpower of four-year-old children. He placed before them a large marshmallow and then told them they could eat it right away or, if they waited for 15 minutes, they could have two marshmallows.I put an M&M in front of each child and told them they could eat it if they wanted, or if they waited until later in the lesson, I would give them more M&Ms. Everyone was pretty good at waiting, except Harmony, who ate her own and then tried to eat everyone else's too. Then we discussed the talk, which includes wisdom like this:
He then left the children alone and watched what happened behind a two-way mirror. Some of the children ate the marshmallow immediately; some could wait only a few minutes before giving in to temptation. Only 30 percent were able to wait.
It was a mildly interesting experiment, and the professor moved on to other areas of research, for, in his own words, “there are only so many things you can do with kids trying not to eat marshmallows.” But as time went on, he kept track of the children and began to notice an interesting correlation: the children who could not wait struggled later in life and had more behavioral problems, while those who waited tended to be more positive and better motivated, have higher grades and incomes, and have healthier relationships.
Every one of us is called to wait in our own way. We wait for answers to prayers. We wait for things which at the time may appear so right and so good to us that we can’t possibly imagine why Heavenly Father would delay the answer.
One of the benefits of having a large family is that there are plenty of opportunities to wait and to learn patience. It's really easy to see that there are others whose needs are as important as your own, and part of growing and living just naturally includes considering others, taking turns, and yes, being asked to wait. It's one of the adjustments that comes when you have more than one child. I remember a day years ago when I was nursing my second child while simultaneously making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my toddler. At the time, I congratulated myself on multi-tasking, but later, I realized that it was okay to have my toddler wait a few minutes for her sandwich; she wasn't going to resent me or her brother; it was going to build her character.
From the talk:
Impatience, on the other hand, is a symptom of selfishness. It is a trait of the self-absorbed. It arises from the all-too-prevalent condition called “center of the universe” syndrome, which leads people to believe that the world revolves around them and that all others are just supporting cast in the grand theater of mortality in which only they have the starring role.My sister used to sing a song to her boys when they were being especially selfish: "Me, me, the world's about me," she'd tease as she tried to cajole them out of their greed. There are times I see my kids being selfish too, but by and large, they are good at sharing and accommodating. My three little girls, for instance, often get read three stories at bedtime, one chosen by each of them. They learn to wait their turn for their book and they learn to appreciate that others get to choose too.
I'd asked Joey earlier to share an experience where he learned patience. He talked about learning to read and how it took him a lot of time and effort, but by first grade, he was reading really well. President Uchtdorf shared an experience from when he was a refugee (he has an amazing life story) and trying to learn English, then he says:
From that experience, I learned that patience was far more than simply waiting for something to happen—patience required actively working toward worthwhile goals and not getting discouraged when results didn’t appear instantly or without effort.I've been thinking a lot about patience lately, as I endure these last weeks of pregnancy and have had other opportunities to endure hard things. Last week, for instance, Harmony threw up for three days straight. She was cranky and tired and I spent hours each day holding her.
There is an important concept here: patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!
On Friday, when she finally started keeping food down, I was the one throwing up all day and feeling weak and sick. Ironically, it was also the day DH took the kids down to Southern Utah for an overnight adventure. All but Lillian and Harmony went, and I'd hoped to get some projects done. I didn't. Instead, I lay on the couch barely able move and tried to rest as much as possible. Though I would rather have been able to function, it was a great blessing to be sick on that day, when I really could take it easy and rest without the house falling to pieces and the kids demanding attention.
My kids had a great time visiting Moab. They hiked to Delicate Arch ("It was a really dangerous hike, and it never went straight" says Michael), visited a rock shop ("Daddy bought me fool's gold!" says Allison), went swimming ("I'm a good swimmer!" says Eliza), and went out to Denneys (Michael's favorite).
I'm thankful my husband's so willing to take our kids on adventures and that he loves to travel and spend time with them. In so many ways, I'm blessed. It makes that "enduring well" thing just a bit easier.
What experiences in your life have taught you patience?